Outdoor environments for children’s wellbeing and learning

HomeEarly childhood education resourcesOutdoor spaces in early childhood educationOutdoor environments for children’s wellbeing and learning

Outdoor environments for children’s wellbeing and learning

HomeEarly childhood education resourcesOutdoor spaces in early childhood educationOutdoor environments for children’s wellbeing and learning

This webinar with Dr Helen Little explores how affordances in the outdoor environment promote children’s wellbeing and learning. Helen discusses how being outdoors, especially in natural outdoor learning environments, provides the opportunity for authentic experiences that support children’s learning and development through open-ended interactions, exploration, discovery, risk-taking, and connection with nature.  

To help you navigate the webinar easily, there is a list of the key topics covered in the session below, including the time each was discussed. The key ideas discussed in this webinar are also shared in a short insight article.  

Topics discussed in this webinar  

Times shown in minutes and seconds from the start of the video  

1.14Why outdoor environments are important  
4.16What elements are important to provide in an outdoor environment?  
7.20The importance of risky play and how to provide it  
15.02The teacher’s role in supporting outdoor learning  
17.06How to convince parents that risky play is a good thing  
25.44Rules and boundaries for rough and tumble play  
27.11 What kind of spaces are best for outdoor play?  
30.52Risk and challenge for infants and toddlers  
34.45Supporting 4 year olds with challenging play  
37.38Providing challenging play opportunities in a mixed age setting  
40.11How much outdoor play do children need?  
43.21Supporting children who are hesitant to play outdoors  
46.27Managing parents’ expectations around outdoor play 
47.52Concluding comments  

Questions for exploring the key ideas from this webinar  

  • How might you expand the diversity of play opportunities outdoors at your setting?  
  • Which indoor play activities could you adapt for outdoor provision in ways that capitalise on the uniqueness of the outdoor environment?  
  • How can you advocate for a range of outdoor play opportunities with parents? How can you find out about and alleviate parents’ concerns about outdoor play?   
  • Can you think of ways in which children at your setting can engage in different types of risky play (playing with speed, height, impact, tools, dangerous elements, rough and tumble, being away from adults)?  
  • Do you have an outdoor play policy? Does it describe the benefits of outdoor play and risky play, as well as identify processes for hazard management?  

Further reading  

Ball, D. J., Gill, T., & Spiegal, B. (2008). Managing risk in play provision: Implementation guide (2nd ed.). 

Little, H., Elliott, S., & Wyver, S. (2017). Outdoor Learning Environments: Spaces for Exploration, Discovery and Risk-taking. Melbourne: Routledge Taylor & Francis. 

Little, H. (2019). Active outdoor play. Everyday Learning Series, 17(2). Canberra: Early Childhood Australia. 

Outside Play website. https://outsideplay.ca/ – Interactive resource that aims to support parents, caregivers and educators gain the confidence and skills to support children’s outdoor play, especially risky play.  


Dr Helen Little

Dr Helen Little is a Senior Lecturer in early childhood education in the School of Education, Macquarie University where she teaches on child development, outdoor learning and professional experience units. Prior to this she was an early childhood teacher with experience teaching in preschools and primary schools in Sydney. Her research examines individual, social and environmental factors influencing children’s risk-taking behaviour in outdoor play. Helen is also currently the Early Childhood Australia representative on the Standards Australia Committee for Playgrounds and Play Equipment. 

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