Executive function in early childhood: Harnessing the potential of nature-based practices to elevate and equalize outcomes

Julie Ernst, David Sobel, Ahna Neil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examined the effect of nature-based practices on preschoolers’ executive function (EF). The Minnesota Executive Function Scale was administered to 147 children within one school district at the beginning and end of the preschool year. Results suggest incorporating nature-based practices into preschool was effective, as children in preschool classrooms where nature-based practices were used had significantly higher levels of EF at the end of the school year than children in programs where nature-based practices were more minimally used. Preschools that used a blended approach (some incorporation of nature-based practices) were significantly more effective than preschools that had lesser incorporation of nature-based practices. Results also point to the effectiveness of a blended approach for supporting EF in lower SES children. This study contributes to the literature regarding effective practices for supporting EF development and adds to the growing body of research surrounding the impact of nature play on child development and school readiness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1011912
JournalFrontiers in Education
Volume7
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 5 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The George B. Storer Foundation provided funding for this study.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Ernst, Sobel and Neil.

Keywords

  • cognitive flexibility
  • executive function
  • inhibitory control
  • nature play
  • nature-based early learning
  • working memory

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