Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 31:3 (2022), pp. 376–398.

doi: 10.1080/1350293X.2022.2108095


Copyright © 2022 EECERA. Published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


Direct experience with nature is a primary component of environmental education and especially beneficial for young children. The present study examined the outdoor play preferences of toddlers and investigated the role teachers play in the outdoor space. Toddlers’ outdoor play was video recorded by GoPro cameras and coded for preferred play locations and initiator of the play. Results showed that the three most preferred spaces for toddlers in the outdoor classroom were the sandbox, swing area, and play structures; least frequently visited were open areas close to the classrooms, the garden, and the tree area. In addition, toddlers initiated play 71% of the time whereas teachers initiated approximately 11% of the time and mostly in the swing area. Findings indicate that teachers may play a role in where toddlers prefer to play. Implications for teacher preparation regarding environmental education are discussed.