Laurel Donison, M.A.


Young children’s preferences of the elements available to them in their outdoor play space


Outdoor play spaces within child care centers are important because of the many opportunities they provide for children’s over all development. Outdoor play has many benefits for different areas of children’s development and is an important part of quality early childhood programs. The spaces that are provided for children impact their learning experiences. Previous research identifies the importance of outdoor play on children’s development. Much of the research done on outdoor play includes adult’s perspectives and observations. Since children are the main users of these outdoor play spaces in early years settings it is essential that their perspectives are taken into consideration. The purpose of this study was to explore children’s perspectives of the elements of the outdoor play space available to them. A child care center in Vancouver BC with a mixed zone outdoor play space was selected for this study. Four children ages 36 months to 48 months enrolled full time at this center participated in the study. The qualitative case study methodology was used to identify what elements of the outdoor play space were important to the children. Data was collected in the form of photographs taken by the children of the outdoor play space, conversational interviews using the photographs as prompts and the researcher’s field notes. Thematic analysis was used to discover themes emerging from the data of the elements children identified to be important in the outdoor play space. The findings revealed 4 different elements within the outdoor play space that were important to the children, the natural environment, built environment, play materials, and missing features/elements. This study gave the children the opportunity to share their ideas and opinions concerning the elements available to them in their outdoor play space at the child care center. The data gathering methods supported children’s rights by giving them an active voice to share iii information and express their opinions. The children in this study were capable of identifying features/elements within the play space that were important to them.


Supervisory Committee:

  • Dr.  Margot Filipenko (Supervisor)
  • Dr. Laurie Ford (External Examiner)