Getting out and about in the great outdoors could give your kids a head start in school, according to a new study.
The research looked at the working memory of almost 5,000 children in different urban areas of England and found those who lived in places with more green spaces performed better than those who did not.
The researchers raised the possibility that children from richer families may typically live in leafier areas and may also have better access to education. But they found socioeconomic status did not actually make a difference, as green space appeared to improve children’s memory regardless of their family wealth.
The research, published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, looked at the spatial working memory of junior school children. Spatial working memory is responsible for recalling information about our environment and is known to be linked to academic achievement.
Children in the study completed computerised tasks measuring their ability to retain visual information and to manipulate remembered items in working memory. The researchers then analysed these results against data detailing the availability of green space in their area.
“Our findings suggest a positive role of greenspace in cognitive functioning. Spatial working memory is an important cognitive ability that is strongly related with academic achievement in children, particularly mathematics performance,” said study author Dr Eirini Flouri, of University College London.
“If the association we established between neighborhood greenspace and children’s spatial working memory is causal, then our findings can be used to inform decisions about both education and urban planning.”