Play Together. Play Smart. Play S.A.F.E.™

What are developmentally appropriate outdoor learning environments?
Child development experts and parents agree play is an essential part of childhood. Outdoor play has potential to help children develop physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. However, children develop at different rates, and the outdoor area should not be a “one size fits all” space.

In order to maximize the developmental benefit children get during outdoor play, the play area should carefully plan for developmentally appropriate outdoor learning environments.


Emotional Development

Well-designed play areas are spaces that help enhance positive emotional development for children. Appropriately designed play areas allow children to foster experiences that build self-confidence. Parents and teachers can help nurture positive emotional development by observing children as they play and encouraging each child as they explore and try new skills.

Unfortunately, outdoor play can be a time of targeted bullying. Supervisors should not only watch what is happening with children, but listen to conversations and potential conflicts. Bullying behavior cannot be tolerated and must be addressed at the source of the trouble.


Check out our Supervision Kit


Social Development

Outdoor play time in early childhood programs, schools, and other youth serving organizations may be one of the first independent social experiences for children. Well-planned outdoor play areas offer children opportunities to play alone or with other children. Children need opportunities to be creative, explore, manipulate, investigate, and engage. Outdoor environments should encourage social growth and cooperation.


Intellectual Development

Playgrounds are a fun way for children to develop intellectually. Playgrounds offer opportunities to learn problem solving skills, explore, and manipulate items. The outdoor learning area offers a different dynamic to learning than indoor spaces. 


Physical Development

The outdoor environment is a great place for children to explore how their body moves. Assure your outdoor environment has open space for children to run and equipment that helps build strength, coordination and flexibility.