Evaluating Early Childhood Educators’ Attitudes Toward Outdoor Play: Randomized Controlled Trial

We explored the impact of Outside Play, a website that helps reframe risk assessments for outdoor play, on early child educators’ risk tolerance for kids engaging in play outdoors.


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Digital Learning


Outdoor play is an important part of children’s development and well-being. Early learning and childcare centres (ELCCs) are important places where kids have the opportunity to play outside, and the views of early childhood educators (ECEs) towards outdoor play can be a major barrier to outdoor play. We wanted to see if Outside Play, a website that works as an online tool to reframe ECEs’ views on the importance of outdoor play, the importance of it, and to promote practices that support outdoor play in ELCCs could be a useful tool to help promote safe outdoor play opportunities for kids in ELCCs.

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We completed our randomized control trial in Canada between December 2020 and June 2021. We recruited English-speaking ECEs working in ELCCs through social media, and mass emails within our professional and partner networks. After confirming eligibility and consent, we randomly assigned participants to either the intervention group where ECEs used our website, outsideplay.ca, or to the control group, where they read the Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play, a document that discusses barriers to outdoor play. We included over 550 ECEs in this process.

We checked in on ECEs’ measures of risk assessment both one week, and 3 months after using our website or reading the position statement. We looked at tolerance related to risky play and self-reported behaviour change related to goals set within the program.

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ECEs who used our website reported significantly higher tolerance of risk in outdoor play at both 1 week and 3 months after the intervention, compared to those in the control group who just read the Position Statement document. ECEs who set goals regarding outdoor play found limited goal achievement, which may be because goals were too ambitious. However, using an intervention like Outside Play may serve as an important first step in increasing ECE’s risk tolerance and acceptance, towards eventually increasing goal achievement.

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Our study showed that ECEs who used the Go Play Outside! website had increased tolerance of risk in outdoor play, and that this effect lasted both a week and 3 months after completion. As ECE attitudes towards risk in outdoor play can be a barrier to opportunities for kids to engage in outdoor play at ELCCs, the website can be used to improve outlooks on risk that are valuable in increasing access to outdoor play. Our Outside Play website is accessible and free.

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