Landscapes for play: Effects of an intervention to promote nature-based risky play in early childhood centres


• The Seven Cs outdoor play space design criteria improved play in two child cares.

• Natural materials increased affordances for play.

• Children’s depressed affect, antisocial behaviour and physical activity decreased.

• Independent play and prosocial behaviours increased.

• Early Childhood Educators observed improved behaviours and well-being.


The outdoor space at childcare centres can be many preschoolers’ primary experience of outdoor play. Trends prioritizing risk reduction have diminished access to nature and risky play. We examined the effects of an intervention to increase opportunities for nature and risky play in the outdoor play environments of two childcare centres using a repeated measures mixed methods design. We used the Seven Cs play space design criteria, adding natural materials to enhance affordances for play. We measured changes in play, social behaviour, psychological wellbeing, and physical activity in 45 children aged 2 to 5. Findings indicated significant decreases in depressed affect, antisocial behaviour and moderate to vigorous physical activity, and increases in play with natural materials, independent play, and prosocial behaviours. Early Childhood Educators observed improved socialization, problem-solving, focus, self-regulation, creativity and self-confidence, and reduced stress, boredom and injury. Outdoor play spaces are important for promoting children’s wellbeing and development.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia, 2D19–4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6H 3V4, Canada
School of Population & Public Health, University of British Columbia, 2206 East Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z3, Canada
British Columbia Injury Research & Prevention Unit, F508–4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6H 3V4, Canada
British Columbia Children’s Hospital Research Institute, 950 West 28th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5Z 4H4, Canada
School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of British Columbia, 379–2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z4, Canada
We Acknowledge
Nature Play WA acknowledges the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation, as the custodians of the land where our team lives and works. We also acknowledge the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and recognise the continuing connection of Indigenous people to their land, waters, sky, culture and community. We pay our respect to all Indigenous people of this land; ancestors, elders and young ones.