The benefits of an outdoor preschool experience for children in their early year's education.
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The overall aim of this study was to investigate the benefits, if any, an outdoor preschool has for children in their early year’s education. This was done by exploring practitioner’s views on the value of outdoor settings for children’s health and development, before investigating, practitioner’s perceptions of how outdoor preschools relate to Aistear. Additionally parental views as to why they choose to send their children to an outdoor setting were explored. Finally, the study investigated the perceptions of both parents and practitioners as to their views on outdoor preschools and risky play. The information was ascertained by using a qualitative positivist research method in the form of semi structured interviews. These interviews were conducted with four early year’s practitioners all of whom had varying levels of experience working within both regular and outdoor settings. Four parents were also interviewed all of whom had children who attended outdoor preschools. The findings of this study show that outdoor settings can have positive effects on children’s health and development. These benefits also emerged as main reasons why parents choose to send their children to these types of settings. There was lack of knowledge and clear definitions regarding risky play and outdoor settings for both parents and practitioners. With Aistear’s lack of a definition emerging as a case for concern among practitioners. However practitioners had clear understandings and views as to the links between Aistear’s four themes and activities within outdoor preschools. The need for further research into the value of outdoor preschools within Ireland was recognised in parents and practitioners concerns at a lack of information on this topic. The need for future research into the area of risky play within the outdoors and Aistear as well as outdoor settings and gender specific play emerged as surprising bases for future research.
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