The outdoor play environment is one of the most important spaces and places for children to learn, connect with people and nature and to develop socially, emotionally, cognitively, physically and spirituality. Outdoor environments are the most natural places for children to want to play. Acar (2013) cited Cooper Marcus as suggesting that children are deeply affected by their environment. Their behaviours and how they connect to people in their community and the space are influenced by their physical surroundings. When we examine Cooper Marcus’s ideas about space, it is evident that from an early childhood education perspective, individuals who influence children’s space benefit from examining aesthetic goals to ensure that they are balanced and merged with ecological needs, contextual issues, and children’s preferences.
There are many disciplines that are now contributing to the literature on outdoor play design, including child psychology, early childhood education and environment-behaviour (Loebach, 2004). Although each of the disciplines differ in focus, a common theme that is present reinforces that the most effective space is designed when those designing the space:
- Know the children, including previous experiences, dispositions, interests and developmental strengths.
- Evaluate the options and opportunities that the space has to support children’s outdoor play desires.
- Create the space in accordance with design principles.
Think about the attributes of the outdoor play space for children in early learning programs. What does the space communicate to adults, children, and families? What does it communicate about values and cultures? How does the space support children’s personal identity and curiosity? What are the roles and responsibilities of early learning teachers in planning the space?
Think about the children that you interact with. Do they have options to explore interesting things along the way in their outdoor play space? How do the outdoor play design features influence children’s play? Add your thoughts to the comment box below.