Physical activity in light of affordances in outdoor environments: qualitative observation studies of 3-5 years olds in kindergarten

Springerplus. 2016 Jun 30;5(1):950. doi: 10.1186/s40064-016-2565-y. eCollection 2016.


This article examines the characteristic of affordances of different outdoor environments, related to the influences of children's physical activity levels. Qualitative observation studies in a Norwegian kindergarten were conducted of 3- to 5-year-olds into the natural environment and in the kindergarten's outdoor area. An ecological approach was important from both an analytical and theoretical point of view, using concepts from Gibson's (The ecological approach to visual perception. Houghton Mifflin Company, Bosten, 1979) theory of affordances. The concepts of affordances in an environment can explain children's movement behaviour. The findings reveal that situations with high physical activity levels among the children are more often created in natural environments than in the kindergarten's outdoor environment. Natural environments offer potential qualities that are a catalyst for physical activity. The study shows that certain characteristic of the physical outdoor environment are important for children's opportunities and inspiration for physical active play. The findings also show that social possibilities and opportunities, human interactions, in the environment have the greatest influence on the duration and intensity of physically active play. The need for knowledge on physical and social opportunities in outdoor environments, educational practice and the content of outdoor time in kindergartens should be given greater attention.

Keywords: Affordances; Kindergarten children; Physical activity; Physical and social environment.