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Perspectives from the ground: Early childhood educators' perceptions of outdoor play spaces at child care centers


Early childhood educators prefer vegetated outdoor play spaces

The quality of children’s outdoor environments can influence their health and development. In this study, Herrington investigated early childhood educators’ opinions on their center’s outdoor play spaces. She conducted focus group interviews with 78 educators at a diversity of childcare centers for 3- to 5-year-olds in Vancouver, Canada and evaluated the design of each outdoor play space. In analyzing the data in terms of educators’ positive and negative comments about center location, layout, and plant material, Herrington found that outdoor play spaces with plants had significantly more positive responses from educators than spaces without plants. She also found that educators at centers with plants commented more positively on seasonal changes than educators at centers without plants. In considering the socioeconomic status of the centers, Herrington found that the greatest need for vegetation was in mixed-income and economically stressed neighborhoods. Overall, she found that play spaces in economically stressed neighborhoods received some of the most negative comments from educators. With regard to desired changes at their centers, Herrington found that 79% of educators wanted more sensory stimuli for children, such as plants or water; 64% wanted more space; 57% wanted more challenging equipment; and 50% wanted less concrete. In addition, all the educators at centers with bark mulch indicated that they wanted it removed as it caused splinters. This study provides valuable insight into the opinions of early childhood educators and the importance of vegetation in their positive evaluation of outdoor play spaces.


Herrington, S., (2008). Perspectives from the ground: Early childhood educators' perceptions of outdoor play spaces at child care centers. Children, Youth and Environments, 18(2), 65-87.

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