Risk aversive perceptions and practices among ECEC practitioners and parents have proven to be an important reason for the decline of young children’s opportunities for free outdoor play. Yet, there are also cultural differences in the perception of children’s risky play. This study aims at examining the factors that ECEC practitioners and parents experience as barriers for children’s outdoor play, especially those associated with risk. ECEC practitioners and parents in five different European countries (Greece, Portugal, Estonia, Croatia and Norway) received questionnaires about their perception of children’s outdoor play. The sample consists of 32 ECEC practitioners and 184 parents. Results show that parents and ECEC practitioners from Norway are less risk aversive to children’s play than those from the southern European countries. Traffic is a barrier for outdoor play among parents from all countries (above 50%), and stranger danger is particularly noticed in parents from Greece (80.6%) and Portugal (62.9%), whereas in Norway this value is only 13.3%. The mean average age from which parents allow their children to play outside is quite different between the participating countries, ranging from 5.8 years in Norway to 11.8 years in Greece. In total, fear of children getting injured and adults’ own concern/anxiety are only mentioned as barriers by 9.4% and 3.1% of ECEC practitioners, respectively. Lack of play spaces (74.3%) and poor play facilities (80%) are also considered obstacles to letting children play outside by Greek parents, whereas Portuguese ones emphasized media alerts (61.3%). Our results suggest a differentiated approach between countries to tackle the reported barriers to children’s outdoor risky play.
This study was a part of the project Moving and Learning Outside (MLO), which is co-funded by the Erasmus+programme of the European Union+programme of the European Union (Project no. 2017-1-PT01-KA201-035784 | Strategic Partnerships for school education 2017).
We also want to acknowledge the additional partner organizations in the project who have participated in collecting the data: Torres Vedras Municipality (Portugal), Agrupamento de Escolas Madeira Torres (Portugal), Playing NGO- Payzontas (Greece), Kindergarten Matije Gupca (Croatia), and Kindergarten Naba (Estonia).
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on contributors
Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter is a Professor in the Department of Physical Education and Health at Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education (QMUC) in Trondheim, Norway. Her primary research focus is on children’s physical play, outdoor play, and risky/thrilling play among children in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) institutions, as well as how to develop physical environments for children’s play, development and learning. She has also been involved in research on children’s experiences of participation and well-being in ECEC, and projects about safety work, child injuries and injury prevention in ECEC institutions.
Rita Cordovil is an Assistant Professor at Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, Universidade de Lisboa, in Portugal. She teaches Motor Development in the Department of Health and Sport Sciences and was vice coordinator of the Masters in Child Development. Her primary research interests are on the areas of motor development, perception of risk affordances, and children’s motor competence. She has also been involved in community intervention projects and research activities related with children’s outdoor play, children’s participation and the design of playspaces.
Trond Løge Hagen is an Associate professor in the Department of Physical Education and Health at Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education (QMUC) in Trondheim, Norway. His primary research focus is on outdoor play, children’s physical play on playgrounds and the use of nature and nature environment as pedagogical resources in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) institutions.
Frederico Lopes (Ph.D.) is a research fellow at Faculdade de Motricidade Humana in which he has been developing and implementing community projects and research activities related with children’s outdoor play, children’s participation and the design of playspaces. His other research activities and interests include children’s independent mobility and place interactions in the urban environment. Frederico Lopes is also a Playworker and co-founder of a social innovation project of play provision and play advocacy called “1,2,3 macaquinho do xinês”.