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The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children: The Impact of Outdoor Play Activities in Pre-Primary School Children


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The present study explored how a natural environment in Norway provides a stimulating playscape for kindergarten children, and how different features in the landscape afforded play activities. The impact of such outdoor activities on children’s motor fitness was tested, and a better improvement was found in the experimental group compared to the reference group. Significant differences (p<. 01) were found in balance and co-ordination abilities. The study indicated a probable relation between all-round play in the natural environment and the effect on motor development in the children. Key words: Children and environment, landscape as playscape, play habitats for children, affordances for play, motor development.
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Early Childhood Education Journal,Vol.29,No.2,Winter 2001 (2001)
Environmental Education
The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children:
The Impact of Outdoor Play Activities in Pre-Primary
School Children
Ingunn Fjørtoft
INTRODUCTION have experienced positive results from being outdoors
in natural environments, but only a few studies have
Norwegian studies have revealed a disquieting ten- been done in this field (Bang et al., 1989; Fjørtoft, 1999;
dency that children are becoming more sedentary in Grahn et al., 1997). We know far too little about how
their adolescence. They spend more time, approximately the natural environment functions as a playground for
three hours a day, on TV, video, and electronic media children, and we know even less about what effects such
(MMI, 1995). The movement pattern of children has a playground might have on learning in children. The
changed remarkably the last 10–20 years. The unorgani- physical outdoor environment, and the natural environ-
sed traditional games, which included lots of moving ment in particular, as a play habitat for children, has
around, are now changing into sitting in front of your been a topic of low priority in child research (Bjerke,
private computer playing computer games. Such scenar- 1994).
ios have resulted in several health hazards like increas-
ing obesity in early childhood (Anderson et al., 1998),
and motor problems in children are reported in several
Scandinavian studies (Due et al., 1991; Hertzberg, 1985; Natural environments represent dynamic and rough
Gilberg and Rasmussen, 1982; Kjos, 1992; Ropeid, playscapes that challenge motor activity in children. The
1997). However, a recent study of the physical activity topography, like slopes and rocks, afford natural obsta-
among 3–7 years old Norwegian children (MMI, 1997) cles that children have to cope with. The vegetation pro-
showed that 75% of the children spend some time out- vides shelters and trees for climbing. The meadows are
doors by their own every day. The most active ones for running and tumbling. Description of physical envi-
practiced several outdoor activities such as skiing and ronments usually focuses almost exclusively on forms.
hiking in the wilderness, climbing trees, enjoying water Heft (1988) suggested an alternative approach to de-
activities, and soccer in the field. Four out of ten chil- scribe the environment, which focused on function
dren expressed a wish for more time for physical activity rather than form. The functional approach corresponds
(Hansen, 1999), but children complain about the lack of better to the children’s relations to their environment.
suitable arenas for play and free time activities, such as Intuitively children use their environment for physical
grounds for climbing, building dens, sliding, and skiing challenges and play; they perceive the functions of the
(Mjaavatn, 1999). Francis (1988) argued that children’s landscape and use them for play. The central concept
play in an unstructured environment, preferably a natu- guiding children’s examination of their environment is
ral one, gives the children a genuine understanding of that of affordance. Gibson (1979) developed the concept
reality. Rivkin (1990, 1995) highlights the values of out- “affordance” to describe an awareness of the environ-
door play, but regrets that children’s access to outdoor ments and their functional significance, or their func-
play habitats are vanishing. tional meaning. For example if a rock is big enough to
Several kindergartens in the Scandinavian countries fit the hand, it might be perceived as an object to grasp
or to throw; it affords grasping or throwing. A tree that
is appropriately branched and stemmed, will likewise be
Address correspondence to Ingunn Fjørtoft, Tel.: +47 35026333, Fax: perceived as climb-on-able; it affords climbing-on. Na-
+47 35026201; e-mail:; Telemark University
College, Department of Teacher Training, 3679 Notodden, Norway. ture provides an environment with such possibilities and
1082-3301/01/1200-0111$19.50/0 2001 Human Sciences Press, Inc.
affordances. Frost (1992) introduced the concept “play- might be characterized as quasi-experimental approach
(Robson, 1993, Thomas & Nelson, 1985). The groupsscape” to describe different play environments. He ar-
gued that natural features are important qualities of play- were selected from three kindergartens equal in age
groups. The experimental group of 46 children from onegrounds, and that the natural features allow a wide range
of learning opportunities not available from other play- kindergarten was offered free play and versatile activi-
ties in the forest next to the kindergarten. The experi-ground options. Hart (1979) and Moore (1986) have de-
scribed the children’s preferences of wilderness and un- mental group used the forest every day for 1–2 hours
throughout the year when they attended the kindergarten.structured landscapes for play.
In Scandinavia it has become popular for kinder- Only randomly they used the outdoor playground inside
the kindergarten fence. As reference group 29 childrengartners to spend more time outdoors in the natural envi-
ronment. Some kindergartens are organized as outdoor of the same age groups from two kindergartens in the
neighbouring district were chosen. The groups wereschools, where the children, aged three to six, spend all
or most of the day outdoors in a natural environment. checked out for differences in socioeconomic living con-
ditions by multiple regression analysis, using parents’ ed-Playing in a natural environment seems to have positive
effects on children; they become more creative in their ucational and professional background as variables. The
reference group used their traditional outdoor playgroundplay, and play activities and play forms are increasing.
It is also indicated that absence due to sicknesses is for 1– 2 hours a day and visited natural sites only occa-
sionally. Both groups had the same standard playgroundlower among children in outdoor kindergartens than in
the traditional ones (Grahn et al., 1997, So
¨m, equipment, such as sandpit, a swing, a seesaw, a slide
and a climbing house in their outdoor play ground. The1998). Not the least it is evident that the children’s mo-
tor fitness is improved. They move easily around in a study started with a pretest in September. The treatment
period lasted for nine months, and was terminated with arugged terrain and cope with physical challenges, which
improve their motor ability (Fjørtoft, 1999, Grahn et al., posttest in June the following year.
Both groups were tested with the EUROFIT: Eu-1997). Although few in number, these studies indicate
that the natural environment is a stimulating arena for ropen Test of Physical Fitness,the Motor Fitness Test
(Adam et al., 1988). The test included the following testlearning in general, and for motor fitness training in par-
ticular. The present research corroborates the main find- items: Flamingo balance test (standing on one foot) for
testing of general balance, Plate tapping (rapid tappingings.
of two plates alternatively with preferred hand) measur-
ing the speed of limb movement. Sit and reach ex-
VERSATILE PLAY IN THE NATURAL pressed flexibility in knee and thigh joints. Standing
ENVIRONMENT AND THE IMPACT ON broad jump (jumping for distance from a standing start)
CHILDREN’S MOTOR DEVELOPMENT measured explosive strength. Sit-ups (maximum num-
bers of sit-ups achievable in half a minute) measured
Objectives trunk strength. Bent arm hang (maintaining a bent arm
position while hanging from a bar) for testing of func-
The notion that versatile play in a natural environ- tional strength in arm and shoulder, and Shuttle run (a
ment might have an impact on children’s development running and turning, shuttle, test at maximum speed)
constituted the background for the present study. The testing running speed and agility. Two additional tests
aim of the study was to investigate how children’s play- were introduced: Beam walking for testing dynamic bal-
ing in the natural environment might stimulate their mo- ance and Indian skip (clapping right knee with left hand
tor fitness and it was decided to focus on the affordances and vice versa), which tested cross coordination (Fjør-
of the landscape and the correlation for versatile play. toft, in press).
The main objectives were, 1) to focus on the affordances Data analyses were performed according to the sta-
of the landscape for versatile play and, 2) to examine tistical programme SPSS/PC+, the PC version of the
the impact of outdoor play activities in children’s motor Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (Norusis,
ability and mastering. 1993; Frude, 1993). Frequency analyses, means and the
T-test for independent samples and paired samples, cor-
Methods relations; multiple regression analyses and factor analy-
ses were applied for data processing (Fjørtoft, in prep.).An experimental study was carried out with five-
to seven-year-old children in kindergartens in Telemark, In this article the main findings of the study will be
presented.Norway. Because of the lack of randomization, the study
113The Natural Environment as a Playground
Results tumn time were all located behind and above and close
to the kindergarten area. This area included 5 different
types of woodland, the low-herb woodland being the
The Study Area
The site of the investigation was a small forest of dominant type of vegetation, see Figure 2. The mixture
of woodland types represented a high diversity in vege-7.7 hectars of mixed woodland vegetation, located close
to a kindergarten in Bø, Telemark County in Norway. tation elements.
The variety of woodland vegetation and the physi-The landscape pattern showed a mosaic of patches of
woodland with some open spaces of rocks and open ognomy of trees and shrubs in the area made the afford-
ances for play and play habitats an offer of multiplefields and meadows in between. The topography, ex-
pressed as slope and roughness, was varied with some choices. The shrubs constituted a mixture of scattered
species, which afforded shelter and hiding, social play,steep cliffs, slopes, and plains. Vegetation and topogra-
phy jointly afforded a diversity of play habitats for the and construction play. Very special was the flexible ju-
niper bush, which motivated for functional play (how tochildren (Fjørtoft & Sageie, 2000). The forest was lo-
cated outside the fence and behind the kindergarten get in and out) and social play (play house) as well.
Some trees were suitable for climbing depending on the(Figure 1). In the closest parts the children were allowed
to go at will, but in the farther parts the children had to branching pattern, the stem diameter, and the flexibility
of the tree. The young deciduous trees were easily acces-be accompanied by adults.
sible for climbing (Figure 3).
The spruces were more suitable for hiding than for
Play Habitats climbing due to the dense branches. The more open areas
in the pine and low-herb woodland afforded running,The children more frequently used some favorite
places in the forest. These play habitats were located chase and catch, leapfrog, play tag, and other games that
an open space can afford. The shrubs afforded hide-and-close to the kindergarten and represented specific play
habitats for summer and winter play activities (Fig. 2). seek, building dens and shelters and role-play like house-
and-home, pirates, fantasy, and function play (Figure 4).The play habitats used in the spring, summer and au-
Fig. 1. The kindergarten and the forest.
play like building snow figures and dens. The genuine
winter habitat was a meadow located next to the kinder-
garten and comprised a soccer field and the lower parts
of a ski jump arena (Figure 2). These fields were used
by the kindergarten almost solely as a skiing arena in
the winter. For children at the age of 5–7 years the more
gentle slopes of the ski-jump arena were used for differ-
ent skiing disciplines (Figure 6).
Motor Ability
The groups matched in age with a mean age of 6.1
years and there were no significant differences in age
between the groups. It was the six-year-olds that domi-
nated both groups. The sex distribution in the groups
showed a predominance of boys in the experimental
group (27 boys, 19 girls), while in the reference group
there were more girls (18 girls and 11 boys). There were
no significant differences in test results between the
sexes. Body mass and height did not show any signifi-
Fig. 2. The forest. Vegetation map. Playscapes indicated by grey color.
The topography was undulating with terraces and
slopes and a dominant cliff traversing the area, which
afforded slopes for sliding and cliffs for climbing (Fig-
ure 5).
The children’s favorite places were named “The
Cone War,” The Space Ship,” and “The Cliff.” The
naming itself is illustrative for the activities taking place
there. Free play fostered creative play, and the playscape
afforded loose parts and natural objects and materials to
play with. Play activities were observed related to the
affordances of the vegetation and the topography (Fjør-
toft & Sageie, 2000).
The play habitats in the forest were also used dur-
ing the wintertime, but their functional use was differ-
ent. The cliff turned into sliding slopes of different cate-
gories. With appropriate clothing with oilskins (trousers
for wet climate), the children made high-speed competi-
tions in different sliding disciplines: on their backs, on
their stomachs, feet first, head first, and so on. The steep
slope afforded shorter but more challenging rides. The
deep snow provided affordances for tumbling, rolling,
and other acrobatics. A dense snow layer made the trees
more accessible for climbing. The play categories in the
forest during the winter season can be categorized as
functional play (climbing, crawling, making angels in
the snow, etc.), role-play like play house, construction Fig. 3. Climbing trees.
115The Natural Environment as a Playground
Fig. 4. Hiding and role-play.
cant differences between the groups, neither between the
sexes. Multiple regression analyses correlating test re-
sults with background variables, such as parents’ educa- Fig. 6. Ski-jumper.
tion and profession, showed that these variables had no
significant influence on the test results (Fjørtoft, in reach) were found within the experimental group. The
prep.). improvement within the reference group was not as
During the trial period a gradual improvement in striking (Table 1).
motor ability was observed in the experimental group. Comparing the groups at the posttest, significant
The children became strikingly better at mastering a rug- differences in favor of the experimental group were
ged ground and unstructured landscape. The impact of found in the Flamingo balance test (p <.001) and the
the environment on the children’s motor ability was doc- Indian skip coordination test (p <.01). Figure 7 shows
umented in the motor fitness tests. Table 1 and Figure 7 the interference effects from pre- to posttest in both
show the main test results of motor development in the groups, showing a significant better improvement in the
groups. experimental group in those two items.
At the pretest the reference group scored better than
the experimental group (Table 1). At the posttest the
experimental group had caught up with the reference DISCUSSION
group and significant differences between the pre- and This study has described the relationship between
posttest in all the test items except for flexibility (sit and the structure and functions of a natural landscape, its
affordances for play, and the impact on motor develop-
ment in children. A significant relation between the di-
versity of the landscape and the affordance of play was
indicated (Fjørtoft & Sageie, 2000). As described by
Gibson (1979) the affordances of a landscape are what
it offers the child. As the child perceives the functions
of a landscape and uses it for play, the landscape might
have a functional impact on children’s behavior and play
performance. As maintained by Moore and Wong
(1997) the physical diversity increases the opportunities
for learning and development. This was also verified by
the findings of the present study. The motor fitness tests
showed a general tendency that the children using the
forest as a playscape performed better in motor skills
than the children on the traditional playground. At theFig. 5. Climbing rocks.
Table I. Pre- and posttest. Mean results (SE) within the groups SPSS T-test for paired samples
FLAMINGO (no. of instabilities in 30 sec.) 4.7 (0.8) 1.5 (0.3)*** 4.0 (0.6) 3.3 (0.7)
PLATE TAPPING (Time in sec. of 50 taps) 35.0 (1.9) 28.1 (1.2)*** 29.9 (1.1) 27.4 (2.6)
SIT AND REACH (cm) 24.9 (0.8) 24.4 (0.8) 25.3 (1.0) 25.5 (0.9)
STANDING BROAD JUMP (cm) 102.8 (2.9) 113.1 (3.6)*** 103.1 (4.3) 111.3 (3.8)**
SIT-UPS (reps. in 30 sec.) 5.3 (0.6) 6.5 (0.6)** 5.9 (0.8) 7.0 (1.1)
BENT ARM HANG (sec.) 2.6 (0.4) 7.0 (1.0)*** 2.6 (0.6) 5.4 (1.1)***
BEAM WALKING (sec.) 11.4 (1.4) 7.5 (0.7)** 7.7 (0.8) 7.2 (1.1)
INDIAN SKIP (reps. in 30 sec.) 21.8 (2.2) 43.6 (1.9)*** 27.8 (2.4) 37.2 (1.8)***
SHUTTLE RUN (sec.) 31.9 (0.7) 29.7 (0.5)** 30.7 (0.8) 30.3 (0.7)
** =p<.01, *** =p<.001.
pretest the experimental group started lower than the ref- other variables such as leisure activities, were outside
the control of this study. However, the parents’ socio-erence group, but scored better in all test items at the
posttest (Table 1). This result makes it highly desirable economic background did not have any influence on the
test results and there was no reason to anticipate oneto make causal inferences, and according to Robson
(1993), when there is statistical significance, it is reason- parent group being more active outdoors than the other.
It is generally accepted that people in the countryside inable to conclude that it is the independent variable (play-
ing in the forest), which have affected the dependent Norway have similar opportunities for leisure activities
and there is a somewhat democratic distribution of atten-variable (motor fitness). This amplifies the impression
that the experimental group improved more during the dance to sports and leisure activities in the population
(Wichstrøm, 1995).intervention period than the reference group. Significant
differences were noticed between the experimental A study carried out by Grahn et al. (1997) showed
a similar correlation between the physical playscape andgroup and the reference group in balance and coordina-
tion at the posttest as illustrated in Figure 7. Growth motor abilities. The study design was more like a case
study including two kindergartens with different outdoorand maturation in the children may have affected these
results. The anthropometrical measurements, however, playgrounds. One kindergarten had access to natural en-
vironment within the playground area while the othershowed no differences between the groups, neither did
age and sex. It should therefore be reasonable to con- kindergarten had a more traditional urban playground.
The EUROFIT Motor Fitness Test was applied and thesider the gain in motor fitness in the experimental group
to be related to versatile play in a stimulating playscape. results showed a significantly better performance in the
natural play area group than the traditional group.Whether these effects might have been influenced by
Grahn’s study supports the findings of the present study
and jointly the two studies indicate the positive impact
of the natural environment on children’s motor develop-
ment. Playground studies confirm the significance of di-
versity in play equipment on children’s play behavior.
The more equipped, the more versatile and creative the
play (Frost & Sunderlin, 1985, Frost, 1992), and Moore
and Wong (1997) observed that the repertoire of chil-
dren’s behavior broadened enormously with the increase
in physical diversity of the environment. Analysis of
landscape ecology and topography for the study area de-
scribed a varied and diverse playscape, and the study
Fig. 7. Intereference effects. showed a strong relation between landscape structure
Pre- posttest results. and play functions (Fjørtoft & Sageie, 2000). The study
Flamingo balance: Exp. group: 3.8* (0.3), Ref. group: 0.9 (0.6). Indian of Titman (1994) also confirms the children’s needs for
skip: Exp. group: 20.6* (2.2), Ref. group: 10.5 (2.1).
green grounds, trees to climb and shrubs for shelter and
*=p<.05 (2-tailed).
117The Natural Environment as a Playground
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... In Denmark, it is a public opinion that children from outdoor kindergartens often have better motor development, are more physically active and less sick [7]. The evidence for these health benefits is, however, limited although favour a benefit [8][9][10][11][12][13]. A Norwegian quasi-experimental study investigated motor ability over a period of 9 months [9]. ...
... The evidence for these health benefits is, however, limited although favour a benefit [8][9][10][11][12][13]. A Norwegian quasi-experimental study investigated motor ability over a period of 9 months [9]. The study included 46 children in the experimental group from one kindergarten and offered them 1-2 hours of free play in a forest, and a reference group of 29 children from two other kindergartens who were offered 1-2 hours of free play in the kindergarten playground [9]. ...
... A Norwegian quasi-experimental study investigated motor ability over a period of 9 months [9]. The study included 46 children in the experimental group from one kindergarten and offered them 1-2 hours of free play in a forest, and a reference group of 29 children from two other kindergartens who were offered 1-2 hours of free play in the kindergarten playground [9]. Balance and coordinating abilities were found to be significantly increased in the experimental group compared with the reference group. ...
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In Danish outdoor kindergartens, children are spending most of the day outdoors often in forests or similar nature environments. These children are assumed to be healthier than children attending conventional kindergartens, however, factors related to choosing a specific type of kindergarten may explain the differences. To better understand this, we aimed to investigate parents reasons for choosing either outdoor or conventional kindergartens based on a mixed-method participatory Concept Mapping approach, and further if parental socio-demographics and early child characteristics differed prior to enrolling children to either type of kindergarten using a cohort register-based approach. Parents of children attending outdoor kindergartens (n = 23) weighed reasons such as “physical setting, outdoor life, and freedom of movement” high, whereas “a good first impression of the kindergarten” was an important reason for parents choosing a conventional kindergarten (n = 22). In the register-based approach, 2434 and 2643 children attended outdoor or conventional kindergartens, respectively. The parents choosing outdoor kindergartens as well as their children differed according to most investigated characteristics, including origin (maternal non-Western: 4.2% vs. 21.9%, p < .0001), educational level (maternal long education: 45.6% vs. 33.0%, p < .0001), prematurity (5.1% vs. 7.1%, p = 0.004) and sex (females: 43.5% vs. 48.6%, p = <0.0013). In conclusion, parental reasons for choosing kindergarten as well as parental socio-demographics differed substantially among kindergarten type. These differences might cause selection bias if not considering when comparing health outcomes among children attending different kinds of kindergartens.
... Elkind suggests that children's outdoor play is not a luxury but critical to children's ability to learn about the world, others, and themselves, and that it is through playful contact with that world that children create learning. 107 Fjørtoft (2001) found that a popular form of kindergarten in Scandinavia is the outdoor kindergarten where children ages 3-6 years spend all or most of the day outdoors in the natural environment. Playing in the natural environment was found to have positive effects on children, with more creative play, and indicated that absence due to sicknesses was lower among children in outdoor kindergartens than in traditional ones. ...
... Playing in the natural environment was found to have positive effects on children, with more creative play, and indicated that absence due to sicknesses was lower among children in outdoor kindergartens than in traditional ones. 108 The structure and physical layout of early childhood centers' indoor environment is also crucial to child behavior. In a study of the number of activity areas in early childhood environments, the results showed that the ratio of children to the number of activity areas was positively correlated with off-task time. ...
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A team of researchers from Education Development Center engaged in a set of rigorous activities to study the provisional Massachusetts Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Standards and develop recommendations for revisions to the standards. The EDC Study Team worked closely with the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) as well as early education and care, after school, and out of school time stakeholders throughout the Commonwealth to ensure that the findings from the study thoroughly informed the development of the standards and articulated a roadmap for improving program quality within the state‘s early education and care and afterschool mixed delivery systema. The system is designed to enhance quality for the approximately 275,000 children who participate in the estimated 12,000 licensed programs statewide as well as children and youth who participate in licensed-exempt programs.
... In this light, some researchers explored the place of physical education and activities in ECEC programs, highlighted the need to look beyond the sports-and games-driven agenda of physical education in early childhood, and invited practitioners to contextualise PA using the lens of ECEC pedagogy (Marsden & Weston, 2007;Stork & Sanders, 2008). This pedagogy promotes a curriculum that integrates learning activities into the child's experiences (Marsden & Weston, 2007) similar to naturebased learning approaches in ECEC, which allows young children to engage in their natural environments and affords them opportunities for more outdoor experiences (Fjortoft, 2001;Harris, 2018;Johnstone et al., 2022). Physical activities are also said to be more meaningful to children if such activities are culturally integrated into the children's lives inside and outside the classroom (Manners et al., 2019) and are appropriate for their skill level and characteristics (Stork & Sanders, 2008). ...
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Recent studies report high levels of physical inactivity among most of the global population, including young children. As young children spend a large fraction of their time in school, early childhood teachers have important roles in promoting adequate physical activity (PA) among children. This scoping review aims to synthesise existing evidence on early childhood teachers’ understanding of PA in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings based on research in the past decade. Following the framework proposed by the Joanna Briggs Institute, we searched databases including PubMed, PsycINFO, SportDiscus, ERIC, Web of Science, Scopus, and Education Research Complete. A total of 13 articles were deemed eligible for review. The results reveal early childhood teachers’ positive and negative views towards PA in ECEC settings, as well as what they consider facilitators and barriers to PA. Most of the studies call for further professional development of early childhood teachers specific to PA. Future research is also recommended to fill gaps and examine how early childhood teachers’ understanding aligns with their local policies and curricula.
... For example, Marketta Kytta [22] used an expanded version of the taxonomy to assess differences in play opportunities in urban and rural settings in Finland and Belarus [22]. Similarly, Ingunn Fjørtoft [23] used the concept of affordances to describe the natural environment "as a playground for children". And more recently, Nora Charlotta Fagerholm and Anna Broberg [24] defined the child-friendly environments in terms of independent mobility and updated affordances. ...
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Playing is one of the most important tools for children to explore his/her connection with the world. The role of play is very significant in children’s physical, psychological, mental, and social development. However, today two major facts keep children in more indoors slowing down / weakens the establishment of this connection. The first is industrialized cities and the second is the digital world. Thus, to motivate children to return to outdoor play and playgrounds, engaging and attractive play experience should be created for them. It can be claimed that traditional playgrounds do not meet the needs of today’s children. This paper examines the role of bio-morphology in designing modern and creative playgrounds that could meet the needs of today’s children. This study claims that, the colors, patterns, forms and structures in nature can provide new approaches to design of novel playgrounds for today’s children. Biomorphic design approach can offer forms and structures that may create “affordances” for children of digital age. Through this hypothesis, the examination of Voronoi diagrams into the design process of playground with digital design tools a playground was designed, discussed within the context of creating “affordances” for children and final designs was subjected to expert evaluations.
Nature has been a plentiful source of materials, replenishment, inspiration, and creativity. Nature collage, as a crafting technique, is a fun and educational activity for children to explore nature and engage their creativity. However, the raw material collection is limited to static things such as leaves, ignoring inspiration from nature sounds and dynamic elements such as babbling creeks. Using a mobile application, we hope to encourage children's creativity by renewing collage materials collection and careful observation in nature. To explore this, we conducted a formative study with children (N=20) and a design workshop with experts (N=6) to formulate NaCanva, an AI-assisted multi-modal collage creation system for children. Drawing on the interactivity between children and nature, NaCanva enables the multi-modal material collection, including images, sound, and videos, which differs our system from traditional collages. We validated this system with a between-subject user study (N=30), and the results suggested that NaCanva unleashes children's creativity in nature collage creation by enhancing children's multidimensional observation and engagement in nature.
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Previous studies have explained children’s experience of place and their special preferences for the unbuilt and unstructured environment. However, the impact of a natural environment on children’s learning and development has been a topic of low priority within child research and the importance of natural playscapes for children has also been neglected in physical planning. The present study focuses on a natural environment, a small forest, as a playscape for children. The forest was used by a kindergarten as a supplement to their traditional outdoor playground and the impact such a landscape might have on children’s motor development was investigated through an experimental study on kindergarten children aged 5, 6 and 7 years of age. The landscape was described and analyzed by methods of landscape ecology and geomorphology implemented in a geographical information system (GIS). We found that the natural landscape had qualities to meet the children’s needs for a stimulating and varied play environment. Landscape ecology metrics showed high values for diversity, evenness and heterogeneity for the study area. The diversity of vegetation and topography corresponded to function-related structures that afforded versatile play. The study indicated a strong relation between landscape structure and play functions. The diversity of the vegetation was related to phytosociology and physiognomy, while the diversity of topography was related to slope and roughness. Diversity in landscape elements such as vegetation and topography might be considered a dimension of quality for a natural playscape. This playscape comprised the ground for training of motor fitness in children. Through all-round playing and exploring the natural playscape, the children’s motor fitness was improved. This proved the learning effects from a natural playscape on children’s motor abilities. This paper will focus mainly on the landscape descriptions and the affordance of versatile play.
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Physical inactivity contributes to weight gain in adults, but whether this relationship is true for children of different ethnic groups is not well established. To assess participation in vigorous activity and television watching habits and their relationship to body weight and fatness in US children. Nationally representative cross-sectional survey with an in-person interview and medical examination. SETTING and Between 1988 and 1994, 4063 children aged 8 through 16 years were examined as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic blacks were oversampled to produce reliable estimates for these groups. Episodes of weekly vigorous activity and daily hours of television watched, and their relationship to body mass index and body fatness. Eighty percent of US children reported performing 3 or more bouts of vigorous activity each week. This rate was lower in non-Hispanic black and Mexican American girls (69% and 73%, respectively). Twenty percent of US children participated in 2 or fewer bouts of vigorous activity perweek, and the rate was higher in girls (26%) than in boys (17%). Overall, 26% of US children watched 4 or more hours of television per day and 67% watched at least 2 hours per day. Non-Hispanic black children had the highest rates of watching 4 or more hours of television per day (42%). Boys and girls who watch 4 or more hours of television each day had greater body fat (P<.001) and had a greater body mass index (P<.001) than those who watched less than 2 hours per day. Many US children watch a great deal of television and are inadequately vigorously active. Vigorous activity levels are lowest among girls, non-Hispanic blacks, and Mexican Americans. Intervention strategies to promote lifelong physical activity among US children are needed to stem the adverse health consequences of inactivity.
This article is a contribution to the experience of testing motor fitness and exploring the EUROFIT test in young children. In the age group 5-7 years, the motor fitness tests showed strong dependency on age and a small dependence on sex. Body weight and height did not appear to have any impact on the test variables for this age group. The reliability test showed significant difference between test and retest in the plate tapping test only. The reproducibility was low in bent arm hang and flamingo balance, with coefficients of variation of 67%. Modest validity of the flamingo balance test and the standing broad jump test was confirmed with correlations of 0.43 and 0.52, respectively, by laboratory testing on a force platform. Factor analyses extracted 3 components, which explained 62% of the total variance, but no single component could explain general motor fitness. The EUROFIT Motor Fitness Test appeared to be applicable also in young children, but the reproducibility of two test items was questionable. Modification of test items was suggested to fit this age group.
Environmental design research and participation can enable groups with different environmental values to negotiate critical design decisions. This article presents findings and techniques from two open space projects—one a neighbourhood playground, the other an elementary schoolyard—found to be useful in clarifying differences in open space values and preferences. Specific differences between child and adult views of these places are reviewed. How participation and research was utilized to help resolve basic open space differences is discussed. The article concludes with a brief review of future issues facing research and design participation.
The school health records of 302 persons from the village of Röros, Norway, were scrutinized concerning the notes made by the author when performing a routine school health examination of all the subjects, then aged 16, in the years 1970-73. The notes concerning assessment of posture, findings on muscle palpation, subjective complaints and decisions of therapeutic measures were recorded and classified. A follow-up study was made in 1982 by sending the subjects a questionnaire asking information on subjective complaints, health care consumption and incapacity due to cervical and low-back pain during the follow-up period of 9-12 years. Information was obtained from 98% of the material. The initial findings at the school health examination were considered as risk factors, and the reported morbidity during follow-up period as outcome measures. Morbidity from cervical and low-back pain in the groups with and without each risk factor was then compared. The results show that muscular tension in adolescence, especially in the neck and shoulders, is a significant risk factor for later excess morbidity from cervical pain. No consistent risk factor for lumbar pain was found. Cervical pain occurred more frequently in the females than in the males, while there was no difference between the sexes in the occurrence of lumbar pain. Lumbar pain tends to be somewhat more incapacitating than cervical pain.