The outdoor play spaces at childcare centres can be many preschoolers’ primary experience of outdoor play. Trends prioritizing risk reduction have diminished access to nature and risky play, particularly in the child care environment. We examined the effects of an intervention to increase opportunities for nature and risky play in the outdoor play spaces of two childcare centres with a repeated measures mixed methods design. Sara Brunelle, using the Seven Cs design criteria, created interventions in both spaces by using natural materials (such as potted bamboo) and risky play elements (such as bricks). We measured changes in play, social behaviour, psychological wellbeing, and physical activity in 45 children aged 2 to 5 before and after the intervention. Findings indicated statistically significant decreases in depressed affect, decreases in antisocial behaviour and increases in play with natural materials, independent play, and prosocial behaviours. Early Childhood Educators observed improved socialization, problem-solving, focus, self-regulation, creativity and self-confidence, and reduced stress, boredom and injury. Outdoor play spaces at child care centres are critical spaces for intervening to promote children’s wellbeing and development.

Collaborators: Sara Brunelle, Mariana Brussoni, Takuro Ishikawa