How and Why Did Outdoor Play Become a Central Focus of Scottish Early Learning and Care Policy?

Michal Perlman, Nina Howe, Catherine Bergeron


Based on a government document review, 25 stakeholder interviews, and 7 site visits, we examined how and why outdoor play became a focus of Scottish policy for early learning and care programs; we also documented opportunities and barriers to policy implementation. The outdoor play emphasis began as a bottom-up
initiative, with a few early adopters serving as model programs. Perceptions that outdoor play programs were of higher quality than traditional indoor nursery programs helped alleviate concerns about children’s well-being, and elicited support from key policy actors promoting the policy. An innovative licensing body that shifted from a risk assessment to a risk/benefit approach was key in developing this policy. A number of barriers to implementation, such as parent and educator attitudes, were identified. Solutions to these barriers and the implications of our findings are discussed.

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