Background: Most Norwegian daycare centers are outdoors between two and nine daily hours. Some centers reside in natural environments and uses the outdoors actively as a pedagogical approach, but there is a need for research that examine whether outdoors daycare is associated with children’s socio-emotional development.
Objectives: The first aim was to examine whether the number of daily outdoor hours in Norwegian daycare centers are associated with exposure to natural contexts. The second aim was to investigate whether there was a dose-response relationship between daily outdoor hours and inattention/hyperactivity symptoms. The third aim was to look for long-term effects by investigating whether the number of outdoor hours was associated with 1) inattention/hyperactivity symptoms and 2) internalizing symptoms, after children have commenced elementary school.
Method: A longitudinal design was employed, following 543 preschoolers in 28 representative daycare centers. Data was collected annually for four years. Each year, parents and teachers completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), and provided information about family and daycare center characteristics.
Results and conclusion: Correlation analyses showed moderate to high correlations between the number of outdoor hours and indicators of exposure to natural contexts. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses showed that the number of outdoor hours was associated with low levels of inattention/hyperactivity in preschoolers. Difficult temperament and high levels of initial inattention/hyperactivity symptoms moderated a long-term association between high numbers of outdoor hours and low levels of internalizing symptoms. It was concluded that outdoor daycare might have noteworthy effects on children’s socio-emotional development.