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Supporting Physical and Outdoor Play

Decades of research have shown that play is an important mediator in the development of physical, social, cognitive, and language development of young children (Bergen, 2002; Garvey, 1993; Vygotsky, 1976). In spite of this, play faces threats from many directions in modern American life. Active play is being replaced by passive television viewing and computer use at home; opportunities to play are even disappearing in some schools. With a growing focus on academic achievement, some parents and policymakers are losing sight of the critical importance of active, physical play in the healthy development of young children. In light of this, in 2010 the Center for Early Childhood Education reviewed over 100 studies to develop print and video resources for teachers and caregivers on supporting children's physical and outdoor play.

Print the following tip sheets for more ideas to use in your classroom


Cover of Learning to Move Moving to learnCover of Lullabies Leaping and learning Cover of moving with feelingProviding Guidance on the PlaygroundCrawling, Walking, Running!
  • Below you will find activity calendars for preschooler and toddlers. They include one gross motor activity for the child to try each day. These could be distributed to families to help encourage physical activity at home.

    Another idea would be for families to use a list of age-appropriate activities to create their own calendar. An activity menu based on age and a blank calendar are listed below for your use.
  • Videos
    • Producer and Scriptwriter: Julia DeLapp
    • Videographer and Video Editor: Ken Measimer
    • Student Production Assistant: Kristin Chemerka
    • Content Experts: Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Dr. Darren Robert, Dr. Ann Gruenberg
    • Narration: Julia DeLapp

    Tips for Teachers

    • Author: Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith
    • Editor: Julia DeLapp

  • These videos and tip sheets were funded in part by Head Start Body Start. Read more about the research behind the development of these materials.

    Development of videos for this project involved a collaboration of early childhood faculty, health and physical education faculty, video production professionals, students, parents of young children, and teachers from Eastern's Child and Family Development Resource Center.

    The Center would like to thank the early childhood professionals who served on the Teacher Advisory Committee for this project: Claudia Ahern, Kim Bartle, Patricia Gardner, Kimberly Lewendon, Ashlee Marouski, Patrice Ramm, Niloufar Rezai, Jessi Robey.