Can we play outside? Social and emotional learning and preschooler physical activity during outdoor play

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Marcia A. Rosiek (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Diane Gill

Abstract: Preschool age (3-5 years) children are known for their spontaneity, high levels of physical activity (PA), and inquisitive nature. The preschool years are associated with rapid social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Active play is considered a form of PA for the preschooler and is also widely considered best practice for high-quality learning. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a process of learning to manage emotions, feel and show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. It is integral for early childhood development and provides the groundwork for future academic success. The purpose of this project was to use a mixed methods case study to identify and describe SEL and PA behavior in preschoolers (3-5 years) during outdoor play at a local early childhood education center (ECEC). Participants included 26 children, two teachers, and the director at the ECEC. PA accelerometry data, daily observations, and formal interview data were collected over four weeks. Inductive analysis and constant comparison were used to analyze the observational and interview data. The findings indicate that preschoolers are engaged in sedentary behavior (SB) 44.1%, moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) 34.4%, and light activity 21.2% of the time during outdoor play. On average, the preschoolers were active for 27.4 (+/-) minutes during an outdoor session at this ECEC. Three themes were uncovered through analysis of observational and interview data including: 1) the outdoor environment provides opportunities to practice SEL, 2) social interaction during outdoor play promotes SEL, and 3) teachers support SEL during outdoor play. The findings from this study may inform policy for outdoor play that promotes PA and SEL at the ECEC.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2020
Early childhood education, Outdoor play, Physical activity, Play, Preschoolers, Social and emotional learning
Outdoor recreation for children
Early childhood education
Child development

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