Getting our kids outdoors

Nature and it’s Influence on Children’s Outdoor Play

Kellie Dowdell, Tonia Gray and Karen Malone – a University of Wollongong b University of Western Sydney

Abstract: A growing body of literature indicates that humans need contact with nature for their wellbeing, however at the same time young children are becoming increasingly separated from the natural world as their access to the outdoors diminishes. The importance of school and prior-to-school settings in connecting children with nature has been acknowledged. This study sought to find out how opportunities to engage with nature would influence children’s play and social behaviours. Two early childhood centres with contrasting outdoor environments were selected for the study, and twelve focus participants were observed over a twelve-week period in concert with interviews and field notes. The findings suggest that natural environments support children’s imaginative play, the development of positive relationships and allows for the environment to become a place of learning. The authors conclude that in order to make effective use of the outdoors, early childhood centres need to provide children with access to the natural environment and teachers who support children in developing a relationship with nature.
Keywords: children, nature, environmental learning, play behaviours, social interactions.

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