The outdoor environment and children’s health: a multilevel approach

Sando, O. J.
International Journal of Play, 8(1):39-52


Playing in an outdoor setting seems to improve children’s health. In general, little is known about how the characteristics of outdoor environments in kindergartens affect children’s health. This study investigates the relationship between the outdoor environment and children’s health by looking at children’s well-being and physical activity in different outdoor environments. The purpose of the study is to improve the understanding of how the physical outdoor environment in kindergartens can affect children’s health. The research question in the article is as follows: what characteristics in the outdoor environment of kindergartens affect children’s well-being and physical activity?


The results suggest that both play and experiences of nature promote children’s health and well-being. The children’s physical activity was positively associated with the use of paths and open spaces. The use of fixed functional toys, toys with wheels and loose parts was negatively associated with physical activity.


A total of 80 children were observed playing freely through 471 video observations. A total of eight kindergartens were observed in the study and were strategically selected among the many partner institutions to ensure variation in size, age, location and physical environment. The institutions were located in Northern (1), Central (3) and Southern (4) Norway. 5 girls and 5 boys were randomly selected in each institution among 3 to 4 year olds. A mixed-methods approach was used and the data collection involved systematic and randomised video observations of children’s free play in an outdoor environment. 


Sando, O. J. (2019). “The outdoor environment and children’s health: a multilevel approach”. International Journal of Play, 8(1):39-52.