Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Growing Up Outdoors


Tuesday 15 January 2019

Did you know that nearly one in six Irish parents don’t think it’s safe for their five year old child to play outside at home during the day? Irish and international research indicates that neighbourhood safety has an impact on levels of outdoor play in young children. We recently analysed data from the Growing Up in Ireland study and found that more children engage in daily outdoor activities, such as games of chasing, bike riding or playing with a ball, in neighbourhoods parents think are safe for children than in neighbourhoods parents don’t think are safe.

We all know that there are many benefits of outdoor play for physical and mental health and wellbeing; particularly for children’s development. However, bad weather and neighbourhood safety can act as barriers to outdoor play for young children. The children in preschools and schools come from a variety of neighbourhoods. Some of them will be city dwellers, some will live in suburbs, and some in rural locations. Some will have access to a large private garden while others may live in an apartment. The amenities and safe outdoor play spaces will be different in the home life of every child, with some being rich in opportunities for outdoor play and others less so.

Our analysis of the Growing Up in Ireland data showed that for 22% of families, rubbish or litter in the neighbourhood is fairly/very common. 30% (nearly a third of parents) indicated that there is heavy traffic on their street or road. For a minority of families (approximately one in every fourteen children), people being drunk or taking drugs in public in their neighbourhood is also fairly/very common (7%), as is vandalism and deliberate damage to property (8%).

However, in early childhood settings, all children have the chance to access safe outdoor play spaces, regardless of their home or neighbourhood environment. It is important that early childhood practitioners and teachers provide opportunities for the children in their care to play and learn outdoors. International research shows that outdoor play enables children to move more freely, explore nature, and also supports cognitive and socio-emotional development. In recent research conducted by Safefood (2017), parents identified playing outside with friends or neighbours as the most successful method to increase the amount of physical activity their child gets.

Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework in Ireland, notes the importance of the outdoor environment to promote all aspects of children’s learning and development. Siolta, the National Quality Framework for early childhood education, also makes specific reference to the outdoor environment, as do the Early Years Services Regulations governing early childhood settings. Therefore, it is important that the outdoor environment in early childhood settings facilitates wellbeing, exploring and thinking, communication, identity and belonging for every child.

On short, dark, cold days it is tempting to minimise time outdoors for ourselves, our families, and the children we care for. But given the benefits of outdoor play, and the challenges some children may face in accessing safe outdoor play spaces at home, it is worth trying to incorporate it into daily preschool activities whenever possible. Maybe there are more ways you can support outdoor play for children. Perhaps snack time or story time could take place in the great outdoors - there are so many opportunities to utilise the outdoor space.

So whatever the weather, wrap up and go have fun outside!


Dr. Suzanne Egan is a researcher and lecturer in the Department of Psychology in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. She graduated with a PhD in Psychology from Trinity College Dublin. 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 the factors that support cognitive development in young children.


Dr. Jennifer Pope is an early childhood expert, lecturing in the Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. She graduated with a PhD in Paediatric Epidemiology in 2006. Jennifer's research mainly examines the impact of early life experiences on health and well-being now, in the past and into the future. She is passionate about the importance of early childhood and the need to address inequities and promote children’s well-being in the earliest years.

1 comments Comments

One Response

  1. 112156 says:

    So true. We are outdoors everyday throughout the year, and find the children are healthy and happy. Their imagination is also extended and gross motor skills highly developed.

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Fantasy play(1) AIM(2) dining(1) Leadership(1) early childhood educator(1) Primary School(2) Staff Motivation(1) Technology(2) Sculptures(1) Advocacy(1) collaboration(1) Liz Kerrins(1) AsIAm(1) emotions(2) Exclusion(1) friendships(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Magda Gerber(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) linc(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Workplace well-being(1) Margy Whalley(1) grandchild(1) Smiles(1) Workforce(1) Role play(1) feisty(1) Mount Everest(1) development(8) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Annual Conference 2019(1) Cognitive development(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Síolta(105) Arithmetic(1) New Appointments(1) educating(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Family wall(1) Blocks(1) Imagination(3) Challenges(1) Self-Esteem(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) Decision Making(1) risky play(2) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) ERASMUS+(3) community(5) listen(1) Wonder(1) Creativity(4) pets(1) Afghanistan(1) Mental Health(3) curiosity(3) conversations(1) story time(1) listening(1) Spiders(1) TOY Programme(1) documentation(2) Trade union(1) Intention(1) First 5(1) Mayo(1) Decisions(1) San Minia(1) Mantra(1) christmas(8) education(2) First 5 strategy(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Leargas(1) planning(1) Learning Story(1) routine(2) Celebrate(1) Relaxation(1) Body Language(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Window(1) National Awards 2019(1) Little Buddies(1) Universal Design(2) Inter-generational learning(2) Ceremony(1) UNCRC(1) Gardening(1) Awards(2) Ariana Pucci(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) curriculum(5) Elders(1) Masterclass(2) DCYA(4) Storytelling(2) Early Years(1) Magnavacchi(1) Confident(1) maternity health(1) Kilkenny(1) Jenga(1) Self-regulation(1) interacting(2) Maria Montessori(1) outdoor play(6) Participation(1) Support(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) ECCE(6) respect(5) Maths Week(1) Arts(1) Patterns(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Celebrations(4) Thank you(1) Interactions(2) Fabric(1) Halloween(2) Treasure Chest(1) Care routines(1) Stress(2) Kids Own(1) Sustainable(1) educarer(1) E.coli(1) risk assessment(1) MECPI(1) purpose(1) European Project(1) Music(3) Engineers Week(2) Mud kitchens(1) Titles(1) Certificate(1) Independence(1) Facebook(1) Social Skills(1) babies(7) Traffic Lights(1) Pen green(1) Infection Control(1) Love(2) Sequins(1) Behaviour(3) Home Corner(1) NAEYC(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Trick or treat(1) Hand Hygiene(1) CIT(1) mushrooms(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) TRAP(1) Learning Stories(8) bonds(1) Siolta blog(2) Japan(1) Shoes(1) IGL(1) Sleep(1) Self Help Skills(1) early years research(1) Favouritism(1) Trigonometry(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Autism(3) Reflective Practice(1) Running(1) ECEC(1) Montessori(3) outdoor space(3) Exploring(1) CPD(1) dining experiences(1) Prexit(1) Visitors(1) Loss(1) Mixed age groups(2) Professionalisation(4) Valerie Gaynor(1) National Holiday(1) Awards 2018(3) Breathing(2) Health(2) The Jelly King(1) Learning journals(1) Sustainability(3) life long learning(1) food(1) Upcycling(1) preschool(2) toddlers(3) Consent(1) Weather(1) Maynooth(1) Story(1) Arlene Forster(1) Investment(2) Scéalta Blog(89) Winter(1) Communications(1) Reggio Children Network(1) parents(5) Oireachtas(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Snack Time(1) National Awards 2018(2) Frosty the Snowman(1) Degree(1) ears(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Design(1) Vietnam(1) Queues(1) Death(2) Care-giving routines(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Playdough(1) child-centred approach(1) Frustrations(1) science week(2) Through the looking glass(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Line-ups(1) Study Trip(1) play(31) Well-Being(9) EM Standing(1) Exercise(1) Policy(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) Seas Suas(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) UD(1) science(3) Performing(1) Maynooth University(1) role playing(1) UN(1) Light table(1) Malaguzzi(1) Childcare(2) GDPR(1) SPICE Framework(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) memories(1) Flowers(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Wilenski(1) Diversity(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Norway(2) Glitter(2) Vertical grouping(1) Routines(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Teamwork(1) Interaction(1) Educators(1) Nonverbal(1) Valentine's Day(3) Wrapping paper(1) Exit interview(1) Síolta QAP(1) Drawing(2) Maths(4) Thinking(1) Dance(1) Games(1) Grief(1) Thanks(1) San Miniato(4) Mark Twain(1) Wesco(1) Inclusion(3) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Confidence(1) Workplace Relations(3) Empathy(1) Twitter(1) Map(1) environments(1) Yoga(1) dublin(2) HR(1) animals(2) Meal time(1) University(1) Affordability(1) Giraffe(2) Anxiety(2) Leaders in Practice(1) outdoors(3) Italy(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Qualifications(1) Albert Einstein(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) emotional environment(1) Snacks(1) School Age Childcare(1) Graduation(1) Childhood(1) reading(5) Eritrea(1) Budget 2020(1) Identity(5) Art(6) Online(1) Time(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) play stories(1) Irish(1) Impact(1) Culture(2) Photographs(1) ReCreate(2) meals(3) Early Learning and Care(1) Human Resources(1) Recycle(1) Quality(4) dogs(1) Touch(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) INTO(1) learning(16) Appreciation(1) Potential(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) EECERA 2016(1) Magic(1) Engagement(1) Communicating(1) research(6) eating(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Research Seminar(1) communication(4) Change(1) Orla Kenny(1) Traditions(2) Event Guide(1) Wendy Lee(2) Academic Skills(1) Painting(1) Creative(1) MA(1) Limerick(1) Iraq(1) STEM(2) overhear(1) Adoption(1) Santa(2) Time Out(1) Recycling(2) Mo Scéal(1) Lego(2) Sociodramatic play(1) Performance Management(1) Children and families(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Mindfulness(2) Syria(1) Craft(1) Iceland(1) Settling in(4) Engineering(2) Leprechauns(1) Capable(1) CCTV(1) National Pyjama Day(1) transitions(10) Mathematicians(1) Maternity Leave(1) Treasure(1) Book Club(2) Playschool(1) Positivity(1) risk(2) Laugh(1) worries(1) Engineering Ireland(1) scéalta(29) Biting(1) budget(1) RIE philosphy(1) Brain(1) Academics(1) Horizon 2020(1) ICBN(1) PIP(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Early Years Educators(2) Aistear(110) social media(1) Employee(1) Shapes(1) Funding(1) Party(1) Interests(1) trust(3) Scents(1) Meet the Members(1) Children's Research Network(1) blog(28) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Maths Week Ireland(1) Builders(1) Inspirational(2) Children's Rights(2) Supernanny(1) Mealtimes(1) United Nations(1) refugees(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Visual Impairment(1) Sweets(1) Plastic(1) Kerry(1) Gratitude(1) Socioemotional development(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Plants(1) supportive environments(2) Learning Story Awards(1) baby room(1) Reggio(1) journey(1) Administrative Burden(1) RTE Investigates(1) Xbox(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Environment(2) Exploring and Thinking(1) Reggio Emilia(1) experience(1) Competent(1) Rituals(1) Family(1) Graduate(1) books(4) Bereavement(2) Community involvement(1) Pobal(1) Cork(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Infectious diseases(1) Training(2) Sport(1) relationships(17) Names(1) Budget 2019(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Inter-generational(2) Obesity(1) stories(2) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Whole Group(1) Trade Unions(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Nutrition(1) Snakes(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Feeding(1) Belonging(3) Child mental health(1) Easter(1) under 3's(3) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Buddy Bench(1) Penguins(1) Summer(1) NCCA(3) Budget 2018(1) Our Little Seed(1) Buddies(1) College(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Laughter(1) Children's Voice(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Children(1) Awards 2019(1) value(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine