Exploring early year educators' perspectives of outdoors play
Doohan McCraith, Mary
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Acknowledgement of outdoor play affordances, positively supports children’s health, wellbeing, learning and development. There has been a visible diminishing of opportunities for children’s outdoor play in recent years. In recognition of the significance of outdoor play in the lives of children, the study intention endeavours to “Explore Early Year Educators (n=8) perspectives of outdoor play” in the County of Donegal, Ireland. In an Irish context, educators’ perspective of outdoor play is under-researched. Significant findings identified educators’ perceptions of allowing affordances of outdoor play in early year settings. In particular, educators’ thoughts on planning for outdoor play and acknowledgement of lack of continuous professional development courses in planning outdoor play available to them. Policy context, to an extent, positively promoted outdoor play. However, litigation and safety trepidations were overarching concerns identified as were lack of space, clothing and parental perceptions. There was clear evidence educators understood and promoted benefits of outdoor play – allowing affordances of enriched outdoor play opportunities. Educators’ positive attitudes to outdoor play were apparent. Data collection utilised focus groups. Focus groups allowed for rich dialogue on group thinking on outdoor play and data identified enablers and constraints to outdoor play. Educators’ were mindful of safety at all times, again acknowledging litigation and child safety as factors which limited affordances of outdoor play. Educators’ beliefs for the most were similar to literature review evidence. However, further research is necessary for this area, and it envisaged study findings uncovered, would be disseminated in publications and conferences, contributing to a debate on outdoor play in an Irish context.
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