Early learning teachers play a significant role in influencing children’s and family attitudes and experiences that occur during outdoor play. Early learning teachers ensure that they:
- Understand and support children, families, and colleagues in expanding behaviours that lead to healthy dispositions, especially as they relate to outdoor play.
- Role model attitudes that reinforce the importance of outdoor play.
- Facilitate all children in engaging in experiences that support children developing positive dispositions toward outdoor play.
- Plan outdoor environments that are appropriate for all children’s interests and skills.
- Provide opportunities for children to engage in higher level thinking and gain success with experiences that are intriguing and challenging.
- Extend opportunities for families to engage in outdoor play with their children and offer other children opportunities to learn about cultures and special needs through the outdoor play environment.
- Support children during outdoor play when they are having difficulty entering or maintaining positive play experiences.
Outdoor play experiences are maximized when early learning teachers work with children to build upon previous outdoor play experiences and/or identify and create play themes and materials that reflect children’s ideas and expansions of those ideas. As early learning teachers support children in planning roles individually and collectively through discussions and posing open ended questions, children develop a sense of community in their play. Early learning teachers engage with the children when appropriate as a way to scaffold experiences and increase the depth of the outdoor play and children’s competence (McAfee & Leong, 2010). Children with limited outdoor play experiences are at risk of developing some of the key behaviours and attributes associated with low self-regulation and executive function skills. Without these skills children are at risk of dealing with lifelong effects including low levels of social, emotional and academic success.