Childhood Nature Experiences Across Residential Settings: Rural, Suburban, and Urban

  • Kristi S. LekiesEmail author
  • Jed D. Brensinger
Reference work entry
Part of the Geographies of Children and Young People book series (GCYP, volume 12)


Much concern has been raised over the past decade that children are not engaging in outdoor play as frequently as in past generations. Little is known, however, about the specific interactions that children have with natural environments and the variability in nature-related free play and recreation among children. This chapter includes a review of literature on nature experiences throughout the childhood life span across different types of urban, rural, and suburban settings. Of interest is how rural childhoods compare to those of other settings, taking into account the traditional imagery and ideology of rural places being close to nature and safe for children. The chapter draws upon two studies of university students from the Midwestern United States reflecting back upon their childhood experiences with outdoor recreation and play. Findings indicated that individuals who grew up in rural areas reported significantly more experiences in recreational and play activities than those from other areas, with most differences being between urban and suburban youth compared to rural youth. More understanding is needed about current experiences in different types of communities, accessibility to natural areas, impacts of agricultural and land use changes, and variations among children and youth.


Childhood nature experiences Human-nature relationships Outdoor recreation Children’s geographies Rural youth Rural childhood Play Rural idyll Suburban youth Urban youth 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environment and Natural ResourcesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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