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Using Natural Environments to Support Young Children’s Mental Health


Have you ever noticed that you feel better after spending time in nature? Even a few minutes can make a difference. The same is true for young children: research evidence is demonstrating that spending time in natural environments can help children self-regulate, and also restore cognitive processes that are essential to executive functions and self-regulation. This viideo will provide an overview of the research evidence and offer specific strategies for using natural environments to support young children’s mental health.

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Julia Torquati,  Ph.D

Dr. Julia Torquati, Professor and Buffett Community Chair in Infant Mental Health conducts research on the role of teachers’ attachment security and reflective function on the quality of teacher-child relationships, and the influence of natural environments on children’s development. Current research projects focus on young children’s environmental moral reasoning and sociomoral reasoning; the effectiveness of nature walks (compared to urban walks) for restoring attention and cognitive function among children with Autism Spectrum Disorder; and pre-service teachers’ preparation for working with infants, toddlers, and their families. Recent research projects have demonstrated cognitive benefits of nature walks (compared to urban walks) for restoring attention and spatial working memory (published in Environment and Behavior); differences in neuroelectrical activity outdoors compared to indoors (published in Children, Youth and Environments); and attachment as a predictor of college students’ knowledge, attitudes, and skills for working with infants, toddlers, and their families (published in Early Education and Development). Dr. Torquati teaches classes on parent-child relationships, children’s social processes, and child development. She holds her Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Arizona and her B.A. from Marquette University.

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