“I can climb the tree!” Exploring Young Children’s Play and Physical Activity in a Forest School Program

Debra Harwood, Susan Reichheld, Sinead McElhone, Brandon McKinlay


Qualitative and quantitative measures of 3- and 4-year-old children’s play and physical activities in a forest program in Ontario, Canada were conducted over a school year. Theoretically, Gibson’s (1979) concept of affordances and Nicholson’s (1971) concept of loose parts were utilized to explore the role of the forest (natural) environment as a catalyst for physically active play. The study demonstrated that levels of physically active play in the forest were twice that of a ‘typical’ day in a childcare center and specific characteristics of the forest play area did afford unique opportunities for more vigorous types of play. Implications for promoting physical activity among young children within childcare programs are discussed.


physical activity, affordances, loose parts, forest (natural) school, child care, accelerometry measures, naturalistic observations

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Copyright (c) 2017 Debra Harwood, Susan Reichheld, Sinead McElhone, Brandon McKinlay


ISSN 2369-2189