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Challenging and Risky Play Outdoors in Preschool; Affordances of the Play Environment Ellen Beate H. Sandseter Assistant professor Department for Physical.

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Presentation on theme: "Challenging and Risky Play Outdoors in Preschool; Affordances of the Play Environment Ellen Beate H. Sandseter Assistant professor Department for Physical."— Presentation transcript:

1 Challenging and Risky Play Outdoors in Preschool; Affordances of the Play Environment Ellen Beate H. Sandseter Assistant professor Department for Physical Education Queen Maud’s College for Early Childhood Education

2 Short background children both seek and prefer risky play and it’s part of children's nature to be curious about themselves and their surroundings Apter, 1992; Rasmussen, 1996; Stephenson, 2003 features in the play environment influences children’s play by affording certain kinds of play activities Gibson,1979; Heft, 1988

3 Short background Some environments afford more risky play than others, - are we willing to let children play in these environments? Playing in nature improve motor- and spatial skills (Grahn et al. 1997; Fiskum, 2004; Fjørtoft 2000) The dilemma between risks and benefits: “In order for a child to ‘learn’ how to master a risk situation, he/she will necessarily need to somehow approach the situation, and thereby increase the risk” (Boyesen, 1997) risk assessment / mastering risk situations –developing a sound sense of risk (Ball, 2002)

4 Research goals Through focused video observations and interviews of children of 4 and 5 years and preschool staff I wanted to seek answers to –What kind of risky play do the children prefer? –Are there differences in the kind and occurrence of risky play on the preschool’s playground compared to the nature areas? –Are there differences in affordances for risky play between ordinary preschools and outdoor preschools?

5 The preschools One outdoor preschool, spending most of their time outdoors in nature areas One ordinary Norwegian preschool with a fixed playground surrounded by a fence I followed them in their everyday life for five months (February – June 2006) A total of nine days in each of the preschools

6 Results: What kind of risky play do children prefer to do? Climbing in trees, on rocks, on fences, in hillsides, on buildings etc. Jumping down from great heights This was popular, but evaluated as scary both by children and the staff

7 What kind of risky play do children prefer to do? Swinging with great speed was a popular activity, especially among the girls The girls told me they LOVED to swing

8 What kind of risky play do children prefer to do? A lot of play including HIGH SPEED – e.g. sliding down switchbacks and sledging on snow The staff took part in this play

9 What kind of risky play do children prefer to do? ROUGH-AND- TUMBLE play like wrestling, fighting, fencing with sticks is popular – but only among the boys One of the activities that the staff restrict/forbid

10 Are there differences in the kind and occurrence of risky play on the preschool’s playground compared to the nature areas? In both preschools there were more risky play outside the preschool’s playground (on hikes in new nature areas) than inside This was the case even in the outdoor preschool where the playground had no fences (invisible fences) New and unexplored (or seldom visited) nature areas afford more challenging and risky play than the “familiar” preschool playground MORE of the children engaged in risky play outside the preschool playground

11 Are there differences in affordances for risky play between ordinary preschools and outdoor preschools? Very good opportunities for risky play outdoors! Risky play occur in: –free play –more outside the preschool playground than inside –somewhat more often in the outdoor preschool than in the ordinary preschool The staff were consciously giving the children opportunities for exploration and challenge in both preschools, but the staff in the outdoor preschool more often arranged and engaged in risky play than in the ordinary preschool The staff (in both preschools) rarely intervened in or constrained the children’s play – even though it was risky The staff were scaffolding and affording children’s risky play

12 Reflections on the results Overprotected children? Norwegian preschools and their staff have a relaxed attitude to risky play The staff have a positive attitude to the value of risky play, and scaffold and afford this kind of play It seems that Norwegian children in preschool have good opportunities to engage in risk-taking activities and through that develop a sound sense of risk and learn how to master risky situations, and last but not least: to feel the thrill, the excitement and the fun of managing something they didn’t think they would dare to do!

13 References Apter, M.J. (1992). The Dangerous Edge: The Psychology of Exitement. New York : The Free Press, Macmillian Inc. Ball, D. (2002). Playgrounds – risks, benefits and choices. HSE contract research report 426/2002. London: Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Middlesex University Boyesen, M. (1997). Den truende tryggheten. Barneulykker, foreldres forebygging og risikoopplevelse. Doctoral dissertation, Norway, Trondheim: The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Breivik, G. (2001). Sug i magen og livskvalitet. Norway, Oslo: Tiden Eberhard, D. (2005) I trygghetens Sverige ska det ofarliga förbjudas. DN.Debatt. Available from: [Accessed 11th September 2005] Fiskum, T. (2004). Effekt av barnehagemiljø på motorisk og spatial kompetanse hos barn. En tverrsnittstudie av den motoriske og spatiale kompetansen hos barn i en friluftsbarnehage og barn i en tradisjonell barnehage. Master thesis, Norway: Nord-Trøndelag University College Fjørtoft, I. (2000). Landscape and Playscape: Learning effects from playing in a natural environment on motor development in children. Doctoral dissertation, Norway, Oslo: Norwegian School of Sport Sciences Gibson, J. J. (1979). The Ecological Approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin. Grahn, P., Mårtensson, F., Lindblad, B., Nilsson, P., Ekman, A. (1997). Ute på Dagis. Sweden, Alnarp: The University of Agriculture in Sweden Heft, H. (1988). Affordances of children’s environments: A functional approach to environmental description. Children’s Environments Quarterly, 5(3), Linden, N. (2003). Scaffolding children's learning. Bergen: Caspar forlag. Phillips, D. C., & Soltis, J. F. (1998). Perspectives on learning (3rd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press. Rasmussen, T. H. (1996). Orden og kaos. Elementære grunnkrefter i lek. Denmark: Forsythia Sandseter, E. B. H. (2007). Categorizing Risky Play - how can we identify risk-taking in children’s play? European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 15(2). Smith, S. J. (1998). Risk and our Pedagogical Relation to Children: on playground and beyond. New York: State University of New York Press. Stephenson, A. (2003). Physical Risk-taking: dangerous or endangered? Early Years, 23(1), 35-43


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