UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Perceived challenges of early childhood educators in promoting unstructured outdoor play : an ecological systems perspective Cheng, Tina; Brussoni, Mariana; Han, Christina; Munday, Fritha; Zeni, Megan


Unstructured outdoor play has been recognized for its beneficial impacts on children’s healthy development; however, unfortunately, opportunities for children to engage in meaningful play are limited. Early learning and childcare centres can be essential settings for unstructured outdoor play, and educators can play a vital role in supporting children’s opportunities, yet they face numerous barriers. We conducted five focus groups with 40 professionals working in the early childhood education field (educators, students and licensing officers) in British Columbia, Canada, to examine their experiences and perceived challenges in promoting children’s unstructured outdoor play. Participants’ identified challenges were mapped on the ecological system and ranged from microsystem concerns (e.g. knowledge and skills) to mesosystem concerns (e.g. lack of shared understanding with parents and colleagues), exosystem concerns (e.g. licensing regulations) and macrosystem concerns (e.g. societal risk aversion). We recommend evidence-based strategies to address each of the identified barriers, targeting each ecological system level.

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