How an early learning and child care program embraced outdoor play: A case study

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Outdoor play, Case study, Ecological systems, Risky play, Loose parts


Research indicates outdoor play influences children’s physical, cognitive and social-emotional well-being, but there are barriers to implementation in early learning settings. This study explores an early learning and child care (ELCC) program achieving success with outdoor play to identify strategies that may help overcome barriers and support outdoor play in similar contexts. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with ELCC program Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) and facilitators, school teachers and principal, and government staff. Data also included relevant documentation and photographs of the outdoor play spaces. Thematic analysis of all data was completed, resulting in a description of the ELCC program’s outdoor play space and practices and factors that may be influencing these identified practices. Six themes or influencing factors were identified: 1) outdoor play, including loose parts and risky play, is valued; 2) outdoor play is promoted and engaged in by others; 3) space and resources are available; 4) communication and engagement happens; 5) leaders are integral; and 6) partnerships and collaboration are essential. Using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems model, this research identifies outdoor play implementation strategies that may provide guidance to ELCC stakeholders such as ECEs and policymakers. To overcome outdoor play challenges, considerations should be made to purposefully target and engage multiple subsystems and stakeholders as described in this study for greatest impact.


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How to Cite

Richard, B., Turner, J., Stone, M. R., & McIsaac, J.-L. D. (2023). How an early learning and child care program embraced outdoor play: A case study. Journal of Childhood, Education & Society, 4(3), 306–321.