The physical environment and the way in which it is organized influences children’s behaviours. Children are affected by the aesthetics of their play space and the people within the space. The environmental conditions influence the feeling tone and responsiveness that children and adults have to the space. “Children and adults tell us how the [space] should be by their behavior” (Greenman, 1988, p. 136). Herrington, Lesmeister, Nicholls and Stefiuk (2010) suggested that “aggression between the children increases when no manipulate material was provided in their outdoor play space” (p.10). Environments that are well organized, with open pathways and options for play, help children in managing the space and peers within the space.
Outdoor play spaces that have a sense of warmth, caring, and nurturing attributes contribute to children engaging in interactions that are richer, stronger language acquisition, and more confidence in verbally communicating their interests, needs, and discoveries. Children who do not gain a sense of comfort in their outdoor play space are more prone to exhibit inappropriate social interactions such as hitting, biting, or kicking and squabbling about materials. They may also regress in controlling their bodily functions, leading to wetting or defecating accidents.
The outdoor play space environment is intended to build respect among children and adults. Children that are exposed to outdoor environments that are planned and supportive of their needs and interests will develop a greater respect for differences such as culture, family units, skills and talents, and typical and atypical development (Dietze & Kashin, 2012). The outdoor environment provides children with opportunities to use and experience materials, toys, and learning options that celebrate the diverse society that children and families bring to the play space. For example, early learning teachers ensure that children who use a wheelchair for mobility may be as self-sufficient in having access to outdoor materials, displays and equipment as other children. Children who come from cultures that have different traditions and objects have opportunities to share these in the play space.