Grant holder
Ji Hyun Oh, University of Colorado Colorado Springs
Project status
In Progress

The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of preschool teachers’ beliefs about young children’s outdoor play and play in natural environments and to describe individual teachers’ professional development (PD) experiences with regard to outdoor- and nature-based play.

Project summary

Despite many benefits of outdoor play for children’s learning, development, and well-being, children’s time spent outdoor has decreased. According to the report from Child Care Aware of America (2013), almost 11 million young children under five years old in the U.S. are registered in child care programs, and spend an average of 35 hours weekly.

Varying by state, child care centres are required to offer a minimum of 20-60 minutes of outdoor play every day; thus, the amount of time spent outdoors is short compared to the time spent indoors. Therefore, children’s outdoor play experience at school is crucial to promote their positive learning, development, health, and emotional well-being.

Providing high quality playgrounds and enriched outdoor play materials/environments is important to children’s rich outdoor play experiences and learning through play. In order to provide a quality outdoor play experience in preschools, understanding teachers’ beliefs is crucial since their facilitation and interactions during children’s play are rooted in their own beliefs about learning and development.

In addition, providing on-going professional development workshops is needed to help early childhood educators in providing enriched play experiences and environments in a preschool setting.

The major questions that Ji Hyun Oh is looking to explore with this study are as following:

1) How do the preschool teachers describe their current experiences regarding provision of outdoor play materials/environments to support children’s play?

2a) How do the preschool teachers describe their experiences of a series of “Nature Play, Play Naturally” PD workshops regarding nature-based play?

2b) How do these preschool teachers describe the influences of PD training experiences on their actual practices in supporting children’s outdoor play for their learning, development, and well-being?

Although many studies have highlighted the importance of outdoor play and children’s exposure to natural environments, there is relatively little information about early childhood teachers’ understanding about nature-based play. Beliefs about the value of nature-based play may influence teachers’ practices to support children’s outdoor play and provision of play materials and environments. Thus, exploring teachers’ beliefs about nature-based play, as well as the value of natural materials and environments, is needed in the field of early childhood education and care.

Introducing the project

A short article from University of Colorado (UCCS) about this nature-based play research project

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Further reading

Froebel Trust pamphlets

Discover our pamphlet on outdoor play and exploration and find out more about a Froebelian approach to early childhood education

Learn more