Nature-based art activities can support children's mental health and well-being

Walshe, N., Lee, E., & Smith, M. J. (2020). Supporting children's well-being with art in nature: Artist pedagogue perceptions. Journal Of Education For Sustainable Development, 14, 98-112.

Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination (CCI) is an arts and well-being charity in the UK which implements arts-based projects in nature with children. The work of CCI is based on research showing a positive link between nature and well-being and between art and well-being. While there are a few examples of strategies promoting emotional well-being through a combination of nature and art, most of this work focuses on adults versus children. This research explored the implications of CCI artist pedagogues' perceptions of their nature-based practice for children's well-being.

Seven artist pedagogues working with CCI participated in “Talk and Draw” group conversations and individual interviews. The founder of CCI and two co-directors of the program also participated in interviews focusing on their perceptions of the impact of their work on children.

Themes emerging from the group and individual conversations indicate that the “artist pedagogues' work has the potential to support aspects of children's well-being through promotion of agency, developing confidence and providing inspiration to support creativity.” While these findings are based on a small-scale qualitative study, they do provide enough evidence to support the idea that nature-based art activities have the potential to promote children's well-being. Further research is now needed to empirically evaluate the impact of nature-based art activities on children. Ideally, this research would focus on children's own perspectives about the process and would include efforts to identify the mechanisms by which nature-based art activities impact children's well-being.

This research relates to one of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals – that of ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for people of all ages. A related target set by the UN is to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases, including suicide which is often associated with poor mental health. Nature-based art activities for children has the potential of playing an important role in the prevention and treatment of such mental health concerns as depression and anxiety.

Research Partner