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Nature Exposure on Children: An Investigation of the Potential Benefits of Nature Exposure on Emotion Regulation of Preschool-aged Children

Research Team


Principal Investigator: Donger Liu

Co-Principal Investigators: Julia Torquati

Funding Information

Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—Administration for Children and Families

Award Date: Sep 30, 2023

End Date: Sep 29, 2024


Although numerous studies have documented the positive effects of nature exposure on emotional well-being across the lifespan, little research has explored the associations between nature exposure and emotion regulation among preschool children.

Emotional regulation refers to a crucial set of skills that support preschoolers in achieving goals, building interpersonal relationships, following societal and cultural norms and later academic success. Investigating how nature exposure may benefit emotional regulation is timely because children in the U.S. are spending significantly more time indoors than outdoors compared to previous generations due to factors such as urbanization and increased screen time. The lack of evidence on whether and how nature exposure benefits children's emotion regulation limits the ability of influential stakeholders (i.e., educators, researchers, policymakers and families) to effectively use nature to promote these crucial skills.

This project is designed to conduct research that can inform policymakers and early child care practitioners about using natural environments as a tool to benefit children's social-emotional development and well-being — key components of school readiness. The goal is to test the associations between nature exposure and preschool children's emotional regulation, including the potential influence of parental emotional well-being as a moderator of this association. 

Additionally, this project aims to expand understanding of associations between children's nature exposure and development beyond English-speaking samples.

Social, Emotional and Behavioral Well-being, Early Childhood Education and Development