Children’s Participation in the Design of Physical Activities Conducted in the Outdoors


Background: Despite recent UK Governmental policy changes concerning the amount of outdoor, physical activity children are currently engaged in (LTS, 2010), there is a gap in the academic literature concerning children’s personal preferences for structured play and learning through physical activity in outdoor environments. Aim and objectives: This research explores the context of residential outdoor learning; with a particular focus on the contribution this experience may have on children’s preferences for learning and play through healthy physical activity in the outdoors. Methods: Eco-analysis and Personal Construct Psychology experiments (Catherine Ward-Thompson, 1995) were conducted with twenty children (aged eleven to twelve years), participating in a five-day residential stay at an outdoor learning center in order to ascertain their play preferences before and after their stay. Findings: Analysis of the data indicated that children had a preference for outdoor, physical play activity. However, their usual play typically involved only indoor, sedentary activity (e.g. games consoles and television) whilst at home. Evidence suggests that the desired play of children is being ignored in favor of the “plugged in environments” (Louv, 2005) found in the modern family home. Conclusion: This research highlights the importance of implementing outdoor learning policies and practice into the current UK curriculum on a more regular basis for the benefit of young children's health and physical wellbeing. This article concludes with future recommendations for the implementation of new strategies for outdoor learning providers that would support and extend children’s physical activity in the outdoors without destroying their enjoyment, exploration or play.

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Wood, F. , Bruce, F. & Baxter, S. (2012). Children’s Participation in the Design of Physical Activities Conducted in the Outdoors. Advances in Physical Education, 2, 153-162. doi: 10.4236/ape.2012.24027.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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