As we examine key roles for early learning teachers in advancing outdoor play, a theme in the research (Dietze & Kashin, 2016; Spencer & Wright, 2014) currently suggests that there is less attention paid on planning for the outdoor play portion of the program than for indoors. Because of the importance of outdoor play to children’s development, there is an increased need for early learning teachers to view outdoor play as a place to scaffold children’s options for exploration, questioning, experimentation, and creating new knowledge, similar to ways in which this is done in the indoor environment.
As early learning teachers think about outdoor play and its benefits to children, we encourage the outdoor environment to be considered an extension of indoors. Early learning teachers and children create spaces and play options that contribute to children feeling welcome, respected and free to engage in the play that is of interest to them. Think about the following questions and reflect upon what each of these mean to you in your practice.
- How do early learning teachers support children in making decisions about their play options and strategies outdoors? How do adult strategies help children develop confidence and skills to think independently and be able to take action on their ideas?
- How do adults provide children with the time needed to engage in exploratory play? What happens when children’s play outdoors is interrupted because of the “program schedule”? How do program schedules influence how children plan their time, explore play options and use simple abstract thinking?
- How does the outdoor play environment set-up provide children with opportunities to decide on tasks and responsibilities and to execute them?
- How do early learning teachers support children’s emotional and behavioural self-control? What strategies are in place to support children in gaining control over their behaviours? How are children encouraged to explore their thoughts, feelings and emotions and diffuse negative emotions?
Strategies for enhancing children’s outdoor play opportunities.
We offer you strategies for enhancing opportunities for children to engage in all types of outdoor play on a daily basis. Each strategy has an audio clip of a story from an educator employing that strategy. Click on the play button (right-facing triangle) to hear the story.
- Strategy 1: Role model opportunities for children to engage in outdoor play in all types of weather.
- Strategy 2: Continue to examine how the materials in the outdoor environment contribute to children’s health and wellness.
- Strategy 3: Share knowledge about the importance of outdoor play with parents and colleagues.
- Strategy 4: Offer children support as they learn about self-regulation
- Strategy 5: Ensure outdoor environments are inclusive for all children