Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

A Hop, Skip and a Jump to School!


Tuesday 19 June 2018

As we come towards the end of the preschool year, parents may now be focused on the summer holidays and making the transition to primary school. Parents may be asking you what they should be doing over the summer to prepare their children for school. Based on our research, our advice is to encourage them to get their children outside to play, to climb and enjoy the outdoors…

We all recognise the importance of playing outdoors and may remember from our own childhoods being told to ‘go out and play’ or calls of ‘come in for your dinner’. The importance of outdoor play has been well-documented in research. The positive effects are wide-ranging and not only limited to health and well-being but for social and cognitive development too. Playing outdoors gives opportunities for young children to move around more freely, to take risks and explore the natural environment. Social interactions and how children work together can really be enhanced through outdoor games, depending on the type of games that children play and the level of cognitive challenge (e.g., organising and agreeing on the rules, taking turns, the steps required in an activity, building dens, etc.).

In early childhood practice, the outdoor environment plays a prominent role. Aistear strongly advocates the use of the outdoor environment to promote all aspects of children’s learning and development. It draws on experiences from countries such as Norway, where the outdoor environment plays a crucial role with the children spending most of everyday outside embracing the concept of the outdoor classroom. Siolta, the National Quality Framework for early childhood education (CECDE, 2006) also has ‘environments’ as a key standard for quality and makes specific reference to the outdoor environment.

But how do children play at home? Using the Growing Up in Ireland data, based on 9000 children, we examined how young Irish children play outdoors at home when they were 5 years old. Most children ride a bike, tricycle or scooter several times per week. The most popular daily activity is playing chasing (64%). Climbing on things such as trees, climbing frames or wall bars is engaged in much less frequently than the other forms of outdoor play as only 27% do this sort of activity daily which means that almost 3 out of 4 children do not. Sport or physical activities are a daily part of life for 22% of 5 year olds in Ireland while 42% engage in this type of activity once or twice a week. In their recent study, Safefood (2017) found that parents reported that bad weather (44%) and spending time on screens (26%) are barriers to promoting physical activity with their children.

Toddler running outdoors - A Hop, Skip and a Jump to School

How young children play and engage in physical activity should be a prime concern, both at home and in early childhood settings, given the evidence we have that the foundations of lifelong health and well-being are laid early on. Play has a significant role in all aspects of health for young children and physical, mental, social and emotional health are inextricably linked. How and where our children play may also have an impact on their developing immune systems. Playing with friends and developing relationships is important both for our physical and emotional health, and for navigating the school environment. Given the prevalence of obesity in very young children in Ireland, physical activity and play outdoors needs to be nurtured in the earliest years and children should have opportunity to play outdoors each day.

We need to encourage parents to support and allow their children to engage in various forms of outdoor play including climbing, jumping, chasing and having fun. Building resilience, strengthening social connections with other children and exploring the natural environment are key skills our children need, not just for school but for lifelong learning and well-being. Playing outdoors is crucial so spread the word, especially when school is but a hop skip and a jump away!


Suzanne Egan and Jennifer Pope will be discussing their research on outdoor play at the Revolutionising Play Conference in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, in September 2018.


Dr. Suzanne Egan is a researcher and lecturer in Psychology in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Her main research interests lie in the area of social cognition and cognitive development. Her research examines the processes involved in imagination, thinking and reasoning and in supporting cognitive development in young children, particularly through outdoor play and the home learning environment.

Dr. Jennifer Pope is a researcher and lecturer in Early Childhood Care and Education in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. She has a particular interest in promoting the health and well-being of young children.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Meet the Members(1) Thanks(1) Reading Time(1) Kids Own(1) Arlene Forster(1) Grief(1) Potential(1) Super Shed Stories(2) Sequins(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Diversity(1) Fee Play(1) Maynooth University(2) Margy Whalley(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Support(1) healthy eating policies(1) Your place(1) Fabric(1) HR(1) staying connected(1) Maternity Leave(1) experience(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Workplace Relations(3) Performing(1) Participation(2) Love(2) worries(1) Snack Time(1) Upcycling(1) AsIAm(2) Our Little Seed(1) early years research(2) Online(1) Sleep(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Mealtimes(1) linc(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Santa(2) Engineering(3) ELC(1) Wesco(1) ECEC(3) First 5 strategy(1) Craft(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Sustainability(3) Scents(1) Inspections(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Learning Story Awards(2) early years learning(1) Gardening(1) communication(4) code of ethics(1) Adoption(1) early childhood educator(2) racism(1) Buddies(1) family time(1) Map(1) Buddy Bench(1) Names(1) Light table(1) New Appointments(1) Trade Unions(1) Jenga(1) Culture(2) collaboration(1) Well-Being(10) Scéalta Blog(99) Thinking(1) Reopening Childcare(1) ERASMUS+(3) Change(1) pablo(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Exit interview(1) Decisions(1) Quality(4) Interaction(1) Magnavacchi(1) EM Standing(1) Wendy Lee(3) Lego(2) animals(2) TRAP(1) Covid19 crisis(1) Wilenski(1) Visual Impairment(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Irish guidelines(1) Sustainable(1) Patterns(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) transitions(10) Relaxation(1) Stress(2) Elders(1) Obesity(1) European Project(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Norway(2) National Childcare Scheme(1) Treasure(1) apps for children(1) Penguins(1) child-centred approach(1) Arts(1) Afghanistan(1) Traditions(2) Thank you(1) Frustrations(1) play(34) parents(6) Glitter(2) Social Skills(1) Line-ups(1) SAC(1) Awards Night(1) Qualifications(1) ears(1) Capable(1) Masterclass(2) Confident(1) social media(1) Treasure Chest(1) Professionalisation(5) Leargas(1) imotion(1) Iceland(1) routine(2) Empathy(1) Xbox(1) social science(1) value(1) Childcare(3) curriculum(5) Pre-School Services(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) Rituals(1) meals(3) Sessional service(1) DES Inspection(1) movement behaviours(1) Anxiety(2) Learning Journal(2) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) risky play(2) COVID-19 crisis(1) Engagement(1) Positivity(1) Decision Making(1) story time(2) Whole Group(1) lockdown(1) Gratitude(1) reopening ireland(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Running(1) community(5) Children(4) Síolta QAP(1) Certificate(1) Fantasy play(1) feisty(1) interacting(2) Scéalta Book Review(1) PIP(1) life long learning(1) Twitter(1) Learning Story(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Kerry(1) Employee(1) Staff Motivation(1) Building Resilience(1) Affordability(1) Magic(1) Digital Devices(1) Technology(3) Rich Documentation(1) INTO(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) First 5(1) june29(1) play therapy(1) Autism(4) Tuscan Approach(2) Valentine's Day(3) Aldo Fortunati(4) reopening(1) Recycle(1) Playdough(1) Independence(1) Interactions(2) Performance Management(1) Weather(1) supportive environments(2) primary education(1) Reflective Practice(1) Facebook(1) Loss(1) Queues(1) Favouritism(1) Body Language(1) ECCE(7) Budget 2019(2) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Advocacy(1) children development(1) GDPR(1) responsive relationships(1) Confidence(1) Socioemotional development(1) Story(1) EECERA 2016(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) iOS(1) Digital(1) dogs(1) dining(1) Wrapping paper(1) behavioural science(1) science week(2) toddlers(3) planning(1) Educators(2) relationships(17) Early Childhood Ireland(4) structure(1) Inclusion(3) food(1) developing motor skills(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Arithmetic(1) purpose(1) Brain(1) CPD(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) National Awards 2018(2) Feeding(1) learning(19) Inspirational(2) Christmas Creativity(2) Sweets(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Youtube Series(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Little Buddies(1) Appreciation(1) gender stereotype(1) maternity health(1) Children and families(1) STEM(3) risk assessment(1) Challenges(1) Anthony Semann(1) National Awards 2019(1) Book Club(2) Infectious diseases(1) pets(1) Health(2) Ceremony(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Mantra(1) Behaviour(3) outdoors(3) mental health problems(1) United Nations(1) Cognitive development(1) Art(6) Identity and Belonging(4) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) respect(5) play pods(1) Care-giving routines(1) Creativity(4) Italy(1) play pod(1) Degree(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) under 3's(3) books(4) dining experiences(1) Human Resources(1) Iraq(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) CIT(1) curiosity(3) conference(1) youdoodle(1) Self-Esteem(1) Summer(1) Nutrition(1) Study Trip(1) Laugh(1) Sport(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) RIE philosphy(1) Aistear(122) Leaders in Practice(1) learners(1) CCTV(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Equality(1) role playing(1) Maths(5) Mindfulness(2) baby room(1) Time(1) Orla Kenny(1) phone apps(1) Syria(1) Mathematicians(1) Prexit(1) Cork(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Playschool(1) Pen green(1) Mayo(1) MA(1) Self Help Skills(1) Plastic(1) Childhood(1) Maria Montessori(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Motor neuron disease(1) Document Learning(1) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) art of the relationship(1) budget(1) eating(1) Home Corner(1) annual conference(1) Budget 2020(1) Competent(1) Malaguzzi(1) San Miniato(4) Easter(1) Albert Einstein(1) Spiders(1) Touch(1) Breathing(2) Opportunities(1) Communicating(1) IGL(1) Bereavement(2) Graduate(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Exercise(1) Event Guide(1) Hand Hygiene(2) Irish(1) refugees(1) Children's Voice(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Communications(1) scéalta(40) Special Needs Assistants(1) grandchild(1) Party(1) coronavirus(1) Impact(1) NCCA(3) emotional environment(2) Exclusion(1) COVID-19(7) Through the looking glass(1) preschool settings(1) blog(36) AIM(2) continual professional development(1) Time Out(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Self-regulation(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Learning journals(1) Wonder(1) Biting(1) friendships(1) Eritrea(1) awards 2020(1) Leprechauns(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) conversations(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Learning Stories Award(3) keep in touch(1) science(3) Interests(1) Trigonometry(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) early life(1) Horizon 2020(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Investment(2) Awards 2019(1) Belonging(3) Sociodramatic play(1) Death(2) Titles(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Workplace well-being(1) Research Seminar(1) Creative(1) Universal Design(2) aistear blog(3) Snakes(1) Blocks(1) Celebrations(4) ReCreate(2) Yoga(1) Community involvement(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Window(1) listen(1) Magda Gerber(1) Identity(5) Child Care(1) Graduation(1) NAEYC(1) bloom app(1) Reggio(1) Learning Stories(9) Family(1) Plants(1) Vertical grouping(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Engineers Week(2) Trick or treat(1) Snacks(1) Leadership(1) Budget 2018(1) Administrative Burden(1) Maynooth(1) Infection Control(1) Traffic Lights(1) TOY Programme(1) Mud kitchens(1) Mixed age groups(2) Meal time(1) development(8) Family wall(1) Shapes(1) Routines(2) Children's Research Network(1) play stories(2) Seas Suas(1) Early Learning and Care(1) educarer(1) Drawing(2) Pedagogy(1) DCYA(6) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) MECPI(1) Teamwork(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Smiles(1) man up(1) World Health Organisation(1) Mental Health(4) Policy(2) trust(4) Dance(1) The Jelly King(1) Builders(1) Storytelling(6) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) listening(1) Consent(1) Liz Kerrins(1) E.coli(1) Photographs(1) Limerick(1) UN(1) Exploring(1) Care routines(1) educating(1) emotions(2) College(1) keezy(1) Painting(1) Games(1) Halloween(2) RTE Investigates(1) Early Years Educators(3) Giraffe(2) Academic Skills(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Siolta blog(8) Child mental health(1) Mark Twain(1) Japan(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) journey(1) Research Conference 2019(1) COVID-19 Reopening(1) overhear(1) Winter(1) Kilkenny(1) UNCRC(2) Inter-generational(2) memories(1) Nonverbal(1) Supernanny(1) Vietnam(1) preschool(4) research(6) education(2) Laughter(1) mushrooms(1) Workforce(1) outdoor play(6) Oireachtas(1) School Age Childcare(1) reading(5) research submissions(1) Reggio Emilia(1) babies(7) stories(3) learning bias(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Ariana Pucci(1) bonds(1) Montessori(3) gender bias(1) Awards(2) GoToMeeting app(1) Trade union(1) Environment(2) Pedagogical leaders(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Role play(1) childcare services(1) child-centric(1) Children's Rights(3) Recycling(2) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) risk(2) Training(2) environments(1) Book Review(1) National Holiday(1) documentation(4) Early Years(1) Awards 2018(3) Covid pandemic(1) Mo Scéal(1) Intention(1) Design(1) ECEC Setting(2) UD(1) Sculptures(1) Flowers(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Primary School(2) Shoes(1) Settling in(4) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Síolta(120) Funding(1) Visitors(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) outdoor space(3) dublin(2) Academics(1) Music(3) Imagination(3) show and tell(1) Maths Week(1) ICBN(1) christmas(9) Celebrate(1) Pobal(1) Mount Everest(1) SPICE Framework(1) University(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine