skip to content

Click here to search our resources

PEDAL Hub: Resource Library

Definition

Outdoor play is exactly what it sounds like; play outdoors. Outdoor play is often seen by practitioners and advocates as a great space for children to develop fine and gross motor skills, exploring, and risk taking. They also view outdoor play as a great way to encourage children to learn about their physical world in a hands-on manner.

Bates, B. et al. (2015) Measures of outdoor play and independent mobility in children and youth: A methodological review (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Objectives
Declines in children's outdoor play have been documented globally, which are partly due to heightened restrictions around children's independent mobility. Literature on outdoor play and children's independent mobility is increasing, yet no paper has summarized the various methodological approaches used. A methodological review could highlight most commonly used measures and comprehensive research designs that could result in more standardized methodological approaches.
Design
Methodological review.
Methods
A standardized protocol guided a methodological review of published research on measures of outdoor play and children's independent mobility in children and youth (0–18 years). Online searches of 8 electronic databases were conducted and studies included if they contained a subjective/objective measure of outdoor play or children's independent mobility. References of included articles were scanned to identify additional articles.
Results
Twenty-four studies were included on outdoor play, and twenty-three on children's independent mobility. Study designs were diverse. Common objective measures included accelerometry, global positioning systems and direct observation; questionnaires, surveys and interviews were common subjective measures. Focus groups, activity logs, monitoring sheets, travel/activity diaries, behavioral maps and guided tours were also utilized. Questionnaires were used most frequently, yet few studies used the same questionnaire. Five studies employed comprehensive, mixed-methods designs.
Conclusions
Outdoor play and children's independent mobility have been measured using a wide variety of techniques, with only a few studies using similar methodologies. A standardized methodological approach does not exist. Future researchers should consider including both objective measures (accelerometry and global positioning systems) and subjective measures (questionnaires, activity logs, interviews), as more comprehensive designs will enhance understanding of each multidimensional construct. Creating a standardized methodological approach would improve study comparisons.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2015
Volume:
18
Page/s:
545-552
Synonyms:
  • Literature review
  • Outdoor play
  • Physical health
  • Physical play
  • Well-being outcomes
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Brockman, R. et al. (2010) The contribution of active play to the physical activity of primary school children (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Objective
To examine associations between active play and the physical activity of 10- to 11-year-old children.
Method
Cross-sectional study of 747, 10- tot11-year-olds, conducted between February 2008 and March 2009 in Bristol, UK. Mean minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and mean activity levels (counts per minute, CPM) were assessed by accelerometer. Frequency of active play was self-reported.
Results
Regression models indicated that frequent active play (5 or more days per week) was associated with mean daily activity levels (CPM) (girls: p = < 0.01; boys: p = <0.01), but was only associated with mean daily MVPA for girls (p = < 0.01). For leisure-time physical activity, active play was associated with children's CPM (girls: p = 0.02; boys: p = < 0.01) and MVPA (girls: p = < 0.01; boys: p = 0.03) on weekdays after school, but was only associated with weekend day CPM for boys (p =<0.01).
Conclusion
Active play is associated with children's physical activity with after-school potentially being a critical period. Strategies to promote active play may prove to be a successful means of increasing children's physical activity.

Date:
January 2010
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
51
Page/s:
144-147
Synonyms:
  • Free play
  • Outdoor play
  • Physical health
  • Physical play
  • Well-being outcomes
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Brooker, L. et al. (2014) SAGE Handbook of Play and Learning in Early Childhood (Book)

Abstract:

'This Handbook offers diverse perspectives from scholars across the globe who help us see play in new ways. At the same time the basic nature of play gives a context for us to learn new theoretical frameworks and methods. A real gem!'
- Beth Graue, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, USA

Play and learning scholarship has developed considerably over the last decade, as has the recognition of its importance to children’s learning and development.

Containing chapters from highly respected researchers, whose work has been critical to building knowledge and expertise in the field, this Handbook focuses on examining historical, current and future research issues in play and learning scholarship.

Organized into three sections which consider:

theoretical and philosophical perspectives on play and learning
play in pedagogy, curriculum and assessment
play contexts.

The Handbook's breadth, clarity and rigor will make it essential reading for researchers and postgraduate students, as well as professionals with interest in this dynamic and changing field.

Liz Brooker is Reader in Early Childhood in the Faculty of Children and Learning at the Institute of Education, University of London.

Mindy Blaise is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Department of Early Childhood Education at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

Susan Edwards is Associate Professor in Curriculum and Pedagogy at Australian Catholic University.

Date:
January 2014
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
Page/s:
Synonyms:
  • Cultural context
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Digital play
  • Learning
  • Outdoor play
  • Physical play
  • Play assessment
  • Playful learning
  • Playfulness
  • Playground
  • Pretend play

Bruce, T. et al. (2008) I made a unicorn. Open-ended play with blocks and simple materials (Report)

Abstract:

Open-ended play with blocks and simple materials

Although children's play just happens spontaneously, it is complex and comes in myriad forms.
One universal type is open-ended play, also known as free-flow play, in which the children themselves determine what to do, how to do it, and what to use. Open-ended means not having a fixed answer; unrestricted; allowing for future change. In the course of such play, children have no fear of doing it wrong since there is no correct method or outcome; and observant adults are privileged with insights into children's development and thinking.

Open-ended play is intrinsic to childhood; children have an impetus to explore and create. When free to experiment with the simplest materials, they find ways to express and develop their thoughts in imaginative play.

Date:
January 2008
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
Page/s:
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Free play
  • Learning
  • Object play
  • Outdoor play
  • Pretend play
  • Well-being outcomes
  • Construction play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Canning, N. (2013) "Where's the Bear? Over There!"--Creative Thinking and Imagination in Den Making (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This small scale research project examines opportunities for creative thinking and imagination through den making in a rural private day nursery with its own woodland area on the borders of England and Wales in the UK. The research is underpinned by sociocultural theory and is an ethnographic study of non-participant observations of children aged between three and four years old and early years practitioners involved in supporting their play. The focus is on children's creative play in peer social groups and examines the way in which children explore their environment and utilise their play space and resources to sustain imagination and creativity. The research considers how the environment and den-making context provides opportunities for possibility thinking [Craft, A. (2001). "Little c creativity." In A. Craft, B. Jeffrey, & M. Liebling (Eds.), "Creativity in education" (pp. 45-61). London: Continuum], where children are encouraged to explore "what if?" questions. The research explores the way in which an outdoor environment can support flexible opportunities and resources where children are able to engage in imaginative and creative play, develop their communication skills and build relationships with other children and adults. The research considers children's fascination with the story "bears in the wood" and how early years practitioners facilitated their creative thinking and imagination.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2013
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
183
Page/s:
1042-1053
Synonyms:
  • Creativity
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Free play
  • Outdoor play
  • Peers play
  • Playful learning
  • Pretend play
  • Qualitative methodology
  • Construction play
Relevant age group/s:

Carver, A. et al. (2008) Playing it safe: The influence of neighbourhood safety on children's physical activity—A review (Journal Article)

Abstract:
Date:
January 2008
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
14
Page/s:
217-227
Synonyms:
  • Literature review
  • Outdoor play
  • Physical health
  • Physical play
  • Playground
  • Well-being outcomes
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Fromberg, D. et al. (2006) Play from Birth to Twelve (Book)

Abstract:

In light of recent standards-based and testing movements, the issue of play in childhood has taken on increased meaning for educational professionals and social scientists. This second edition of Play From Birth to Twelve offers comprehensive coverage of what we now know about play, its guiding principles, its dynamics and importance in early learning. These up-to-date essays, written by some of the most distinguished experts in the field, help students explore:
all aspects of play, including new approaches not yet covered in the literature
how teachers in various classroom situations set up and guide play to facilitate learning
how play is affected by societal violence, media reportage, technological innovations and other contemporary issues
which areas of play have been studied adequately and which require further research.

Date:
January 2006
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
Page/s:
Synonyms:
  • Cultural context
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Games with rules
  • Humour
  • Language
  • Learning
  • Object play
  • Outdoor play
  • Peers play
  • Physical play
  • Pretend play
  • Social play
  • Social-emotional

Hart, R. (2002) Containing children: some lessons on planning for play from New York City (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This paper relates the history of playground provision in New York to changing conceptions of childhood, and specifically to a felt need to ’contain’ children in order to keep them off the streets, safe from traffic and unsavoury influences - a trend that children have tended to resist. Playgrounds most often substitute a narrow range of physical activity for the spontaneous play in diverse environments that children more naturally crave. Not only do playgrounds fail to satisfy the complexity of children’s developmental needs, they also tend to separate children from the daily life of their communities - exposure to which is fundamental to the development of civil society. What is needed, argues the author, is not more segregated playgrounds, but a greater attempt to make neighbourhoods safe and welcoming for children, responding to their own preferences for free play close to home.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2002
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
14
Page/s:
135-148
Synonyms:
  • Free play
  • Literature review
  • Outdoor play
  • Physical play
  • Playground
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Hirose, T. et al. (2012) Correspondence between Children's Indoor and Outdoor Play in Japanese Preschool Daily Life (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This study examined the correspondence between children's indoor and outdoor play in a preschool environment to investigate whether the children maintained a tendency to engage in a particular type of play irrespective of the environment, or whether they changed the type of play according to the environment. Play behaviours of 18 three-year-old and 20 five-year-old children were observed in both settings in an urban preschool in Japan. Various characteristics of play were examined based on cognitive play categories, social play categories, and types of objects used. The results indicate that children do not maintain fixed play behaviour without taking into consideration the play settings: their play differed greatly in accordance with the play setting. Not every child showed the same differences in play corresponding to differences in the setting. However, for each age group there was a qualitative difference based on the setting. For the three-year-olds, the "subject of interest" changed between settings, whereas for the five-year-olds, the "participation in society" changed related to the setting (indoor or outdoor). The "relation with the environment" was greater for both age groups in the outdoor setting. There were no significant sex differences. (Contains 3 tables and 2 figures.)

Date:
January 2012
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
182
Page/s:
1611-1622
Synonyms:
  • Correlational
  • Free play
  • Functional play
  • Indoor play
  • Outdoor play
  • Parallel play
  • Peers play
  • Physical play
  • Playground
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Holt, N. et al. (2008) Neighborhood and developmental differences in children's perceptions of opportunities for play and physical activity (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The purposes of this study were to examine perceptions of places to play and be physically active among children from two different urban neighborhoods, and evaluate these perceptions for age-related developmental differences. One hundred and sixty-eight children from grades K-6 (aged 6–12 years old) completed mental maps depicting places where they could play and be physically active. The children were recruited from schools in two neighborhoods—one a high-walkability (H-W) grid-style neighborhood, the other a low-walkability (L-W) lollipop-style (i.e., cul-de-sacs) neighborhood. Analysis revealed that children in the H-W neighborhood depicted more active transportation and less non-active transportation than children in the L-W neighborhood. Children in the lowest grades (K-2) in the L-W neighborhood depicted more play in the home/yard environment than the oldest children, more good weather image events than children in Grades 3–6, and less play outside the home/yard environment than children in Grades 3 and 4. In the H-W neighborhood, the youngest children (K-2) depicted significantly less play in the home/yard environment and less play outside the home/yard environment than older children (Grades 3–6). Thus, both the type of urban neighborhood and children's age moderated perceptions of places to play and be physically active.

Date:
January 2008
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
14
Page/s:
2-14
Synonyms:
  • Outdoor play
  • Physical health
  • Physical play
  • Playground
  • Well-being outcomes
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline: