Early Learning Teachers and Outdoor Play Design

Ideally, early learning teachers strive to provide children with outdoor play environments that stimulate imagination, what if questions, and play that is active, innovative, engaging, inspiring and nurturing. To accomplish these goals, early learning teachers require an extensive understanding of how space, environmental conditions and materials interact with one another to create that place of magic. Early learning teachers examine the key features of the space to ensure that children have the highest levels of opportunity to maximize outdoor play experiences, while ensuring that the space is safe.  Think about your beliefs about children’s outdoor play. Then, think about how you view the most ideal outdoor play space. Now view the graphic below to gain further information on characteristics of quality outdoor play spaces.



  1. Minni Harris

    I worry about storage of the loose materials and keeping it from looking unorganized and messy, yet at the same time I would like to see play zones an outdoor play kitchen with access to water source and mud,sand etc.

  2. Cindy Spencer

    My idea of a play space is much different than that of my colleagues. We have a new coworker starting in September so we will have to meet and collaborate on new ideas for our play space, as well as how to incorporate everyone’s ideas and suggestions somehow so no one feels left out. I envision a more natural space with logs and boulders and a child size creek and mud and sand etc.

  3. Shirley Robinson

    I would love to to have a big play space and just have lots of materail, just to how the children will interact

  4. Rachael Ewan

    I envision a natural play space, where there is balance of the types of units, the types of play materials, balance to loud and quiet activities, that there are places to explore and discover and dig and run and play together or sit quietly alone. I envision loose parts and materials that are dynamic and moveable. I envision engagement of all the senses, and representation of the elements.

  5. Heather Diewert

    Stated previously I learned that the space envisioned would need to be more inclusive.
    I discovered the importance having planned out play areas that include a variety of simple to complex units to ensure that there are enough stimulation for the numbers of children.
    As I consider my blank space play space, I realize that it will always be a work in progress and will be modifies and adapted for every new child, season and weather.

  6. Rachelle Gregoire

    I think about storage and making things look tidy for the beginning of play. Also, how role modeling how the spaces can be used is also important

  7. Katarina Ninkovic

    We have a centre that in the middle of the city and although half is fenced off, anyone can still come in, so unfortunately we have to put away the toys and other items at the end of the day, and often times our shed is exploding with items already so storage is something that I think we need to invest in! Also sometimes we don’t even bring out all the toys at all!!

  8. Anna Mary McKenney

    When I think about outdoor play spaces I often forget about storage and I think its important to determine how we can make this spaces duel use

  9. Jody Anderson

    When I discussed my blank slate for an outdoor play space in a previous lesson I forgot about the importance of inclusivity and diversity. Also to bring in a variety of cultural experiences into the space would create interest, connections, and learning experiences. Designing the physical space as well as ensuring the interactions between children, educators and families within that space are always postivie.

  10. Bonnie Willson

    My ideal outdoor play area would have a variety of different spaces, different activities and different types of play equipment including loose parts to give the children a variety of options when it comes to being creative and having fun.

  11. Amanda Funk

    My view of an ideal outdoor play space would have trees, gardens, grasses, rocks, water, dirt, sand and complimentary materials.

  12. Maria Agustin

    My ideal outdoor space have trees, rocks, water, gardens and lots of loose parts.Open area where children can run, pathways for bikes and have picnic tables.

  13. Grace Smith

    My ideal outdoor space would be wide and open space with lots of trees, bushes, gardens more like a nature park.

  14. Angel Huang

    my ideal outdoor space is to actually have a tree house somewhere so the kids can be somehow high above ground and looking down.

  15. Amanda Christison

    My ideal outdoor play space would have lots of trees and definitely a pond of some sort with a waterfall as that sound is very calming. There would be lots of spaces for sensory play and discovery for the children to tinker around and also spaces for more quiet and reflective play. A garden too is a must!

  16. Ruth Novak

    I love all these new ideas I keep reading about. It’s making it more worth pushing for outdoor play. I want children to be able to roam freely and not be confined to one little space. I would have areas of quiet and loud, gardens, sand, large tires, chimes. Items the children would enjoy.

  17. Betty-Ann Ryz

    My ideal outdoor space has a water feature, grassy area, smooth pathways, trees, grassy hills, a mud kitchen, garden spot, flower bed, natural play house, loose parts and plenty of space for everyone.

  18. Silvia Martínez

    The ideal outdoor space it’s when can have areas for play with loses parts and they can mix with nature flower trees leafs rocks

  19. Karin Freiberg

    My ideal space would have trees, shaded area, pond, walking/hiking trails, shelter, a stream and fire pit.

  20. Annette Casey

    My ideal space, trees, field, creek, shelter, various play areas . Safety first fenced perimeter.

  21. Prabhulata Immaraju

    My ideal space is trees, Rocks, Boulders, logs, planks, blocks of wood, Water, sand, beautiful and bright flowers , fruit n vegetable garden, natural n other loose parts, a place for tinkering, fabric and a place for all the items to be stored that children can freely get what they need for their play ( and put back when done).

  22. Kimberley Thompson

    My ideal play space would be a forest play space or able to.visot a farm and go on field trips to the bird wildlife look out.

  23. Nikki Meyer

    My ideal outdoor space would have some hills and be filled with trees, flowers, shrubs, stumps, rocks, and branches. It would have a little creek, garden areas and many loose parts for children to use in investigations and discovery. It would have quiet nooks for children to relax in and explore.

  24. Svetlana Babikova

    For me, ideal outdoor space will include quiet and active spaces, large open space, lot of different centers such as art center, sensory, dramatic play (mud kitchen), shade for children, large storage with loose parts materials, lots of materials for active games, space for children collaborate like a picnic table, reading corner, etc.

  25. Erin Lihou

    My ideal play space would have lots of different features, with a rubber type ground to make it functional and safe for everyone

  26. Joanne Falk

    My ideal outdoor play space would be an open area where the kids have lots of space to run around. have a hill to roll down, as well as lots of trees to climb, shrubs, flowers, maybe even a creek/pond,

  27. Nadira Ramnauth

    I agree with the strategies, we should involve the children in organizing the environment. Children like to help adults. Some children have their favourite spot where they like to play, but we encourage them to explore the other areas. The outdoor environment should look attractive and inviting to the children and their families. We should have lots of loose parts, nature items, a garden with flowers and vegetables, materials for children to take risks, and water. The outdoor environment plays an important part on how the children learn.

  28. Kathy Barnhart

    My ideal outdoor play space is one that has a lot of interesting materials and that is not always the same. I’d like to have a say in what is in that space but i also like to be surprised.

  29. Caroline Driedger

    My most ideal play space would be a forests with a creek running through it. If i could create that in our backyard i would be the happiest Educator and i truly believe that the other educators , children and families would be comfortable, happy and relaxed in this space.

  30. Deborah Fehr

    I see a forest (lots of trees) and pathways and streams (running water) and gardens (perhaps raised beds for vegetables and flowers) and wild flowers and natural growth on the ground in places and swings between the trees and in the forest and places to climb (in order to see from up above) and to develop the coordination and strength necessary to succeed. And I see places to find growing treasures beneath the leaves and tools for digging and watering and materials for drawing and creating signs. And I see loose parts that become the items found within homes such as food and cooking utensils and babies to care for. I see flat paths for wheels (tricycles, wagons, wheelchairs). I see animals that need to be cared for and science equipment for further exploration. I see cozy corners and tables and blankets on the ground. I see sunny spots and shady spots. I see ….

  31. Kamaldeep Sidhu

    My ideal space for children:a lots of trees,flower beds,grass,swings,slides,mud kitchen,sand,water and nature materials. I also like picnic tables for eating.

  32. Janice Duncan

    My ideal space for children has lots of trees to provide shelter from the sun, homes for birds and a something to climb. The space would also include raised garden beds with flowers and vegetables, There is some fixed equipment like a fort, swings and a slide, sand with lots of loose parts, a mud kitchen near a water source. There would be grass and large boulders around some of the area for the children to walk across. Tree stumps in a circle could create another place to sit and meet, there would be ramps and paths around the playground that are wheel chair accessible. Loose parts like tires, boards, coiled hoses, hula hoops, large boxes, rope and logs would be incorporated into the play area. Picnic tables for eating, quiet games and art activities would be available under umbrellas.

  33. Alphonsine Hategekimana

    The most ideal outdoor play space is to have trees, space to climb up and down, swing, a garden and space to play freely, a space for sensory play: sand, water, paint… and a place with different materials that children can manipulate, craft and build.

  34. Nicole Morrell

    I like the word “vibrant” when it comes to explaining a play space. What a different feeling that word gives!

  35. Alison Rinas

    I view the most ideal play space to be inviting, a garden that welcomes your inner spirit for that day, if you feel like climbing, you are able to climb, if you want tp build and create, there are spaces to dig, build with wood and other materials, if you want to relax, there are calming spaces and hammocks for you rest in and read a book or paint and be creative. That would be my idea space for all children.

  36. Patricia Lynch-Staunton

    Think about how you view the most ideal outdoor play space.

    My ideal outdoor play space is natural, with lots of trees, flowers, plants,pathways, loose parts, sunny and shady spots, large open spaces for gross motor play, secret tucked away spots for quiet and solitary play, flowing water, hillocks, tunnels, grasses, rocks, documentation area, eating area, outdoor access to a bathroom, spaces that can be used for many things such as art, dramatic play, literacy, a food garden, high things to climb, swings and hammocks, stumps to balance and walk along.

  37. Kim Hoey

    I see a hill, a small creek or pond. Natural sand area. Trees….. lots of trees, for climbing, for shade. A garden area. A larger space for the children for explore, create and move around in.

  38. Susanne Saunders

    I view the most ideal outdoor play space it would be open free to move around. Have trees, water, and nature all over. it would be colorful and fun.