What about the impact of outdoor quality? the unique associations between outdoor quality and preschool children’s cognitive and social skills

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Blenda Luize Chor Rodrigues (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Linda Hestenes

Abstract: Early childhood education quality is an increasingly important area of investigation as many studies have pointed to long-term relationships between childcare quality and children’s outcomes, including social and cognitive skills (Lin & Magnuson, 2018; Sammons et al, 2015; Hestenes et al., 2014; Peisner-Feinberg et al., 2003). More recently, outdoor environments have become another piece of the quality puzzle. Past research highlights associations between childcare outdoor environment design and physical characteristics and young children’s physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development (Kemple et al., 2016; Li et al., 2016; Ludwig & Rauch, 2018). However, fewer studies have analyzed specifically the extent to which outdoor environment quality relates to young children’s outcomes. Moreover, most of these studies remain atheoretical and conducted in other countries. The present study investigated how quality in outdoor learning environments contributed above and beyond classroom global quality to impact preschoolers’ cognitive and social skills utilizing Bronfenbrenner and Morris’ (2006) bioecological theory, Gibson’s (1979) affordance theory, and Kaplan’s (1995) attention restoration theory. The study included a randomized sample of 92 licensed childcare programs and 405 preschool children located across North Carolina, United States. POEMS (DeBord et al., 2005) and ECERS-R (Harms et al., 2005) were utilized to measure outdoor quality and classroom quality, respectively. A Natural Elements subscale, derived from POEMS items, specifically assessed the presence of natural elements in the outdoor settings. Children’s scores on the FIST (Jacques & Zelazo, 2001) assessment of executive functioning served as a measure of cognitive outcomes, while preschoolers’ social skills were measured using both a direct conceptual perspective taking task (Taylor, 1988), and teacher ratings using the SSIS (Gresham & Elliott, 2008) Social Skills and Problem Behaviors subscales. Multilevel analyses showed that outdoor environment quality in childcare settings predicted children’s abstraction and flexible thinking above and beyond classroom global levels of quality. In addition, correlation analyses revealed an association between children’s participation in outdoor environments with more natural elements and fewer behavior problems as rated by their teachers. Future research on the potential of childcare outdoor environments to support young children’s development might benefit from utilizing longitudinal designs and ecological theories of human development that shed light on the interactions occurring between individuals and context and the mutual effect of these elements in producing change over time.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Childcare, Cognitive development, Outdoor, Preschool, Quality, Social development
Early childhood education $x Environmental aspects $z North Carolina
Child development $x Environmental aspects $z North Carolina
Children and the environment $z North Carolina

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