Outdoor Motor Play: Analysis, Speculations, Research Paths

  • Andrea Ceciliani
  • Alessandro Bortolotti
Keywords: Outdoor motor play, Development, Motor behaviour, Observation


In our rapidly changing contemporary society, it has become apparent that children spend significantly less time playing outdoors than their parents did. Therefore, considerable attention must be paid by professionals to engage this challenge, especially within early educational contexts. The goal of this study was to first explore the continual drive of play in educational growth and, second, the ways in which children play outdoors at school, in order to reap the developmental benefits of outdoor play in a supportive context, where such fundamental activity is not only allowed, but also supported. The results of this study reinforce existing research in this area, highlighting the findings of children’s physical play behaviour and its frequency, also in connection with the use of tools and toys; further findings highlight teacher’s attitudes and suggest several options for early childhood professionals to foster children’s enjoyment of outdoor play. Finally, the study results have implications for future opportunities in the planning of active spontaneous-play.


Download data is not yet available.


Bailey, R., Olson, J., Pepper, J., Barstow, T., & Cooper, D. (1994). The level and tempo of children’s physical activities: an observational study. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 95, 1033–1041.

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215.

Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1–26.

Bateson, G. (1956). The Message ‘This Is Play’. New York: Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind. New York: Paladin Book.

Baumgartner, E. (2004). L’osservazione del comportamento infantile. Teorie e strumenti. Roma: Carocci.

Bortolotti, A. (2007). Ricerca sul campo di esperienza: ‘Corpo, movimento, salute’. In AAVV, Muoversi, giocare, apprendere (pp. 30-53). Bologna: dupress.

Bortolotti, A., & Ceciliani, A. (2007a). Giocare con cura. Ricerche di Pedagogia e Didattica, 2, 479–525.

Bortolotti, A., & Ceciliani, A. (2007b). Gioco spontaneo e cure educative. In M. Contini & M. Manini, La cura in educazione: tra famiglie e servizi. Roma: Carocci.

Boulton, M. J. (1996). A comparison of 8- and 11-year-old girls’ and boys’ participation in specific types of rough-and-tumble play and aggressive fighting: implications for functional hypotheses. Aggressive Behavior, 22, 271–287.

Brian, L. (2005). Playground exploration: an Opportunity For Incidental Learning Of Mechanical Principles. Teaching Elementary Physical Education, 16, 21–24.

Burdette, H. L., & Whitaker, R. C. (2005). Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med., 159, 46–50.

Caillois, R. (1958). Le jeux et les hommes. La masque et le vertige. Paris: Gallimard.

Ceciliani, A., Bardella, L., Grasso, ML, Zabonati, A., & Robazza, C. (2008). Effects of a Physical Education Program on Children’s Attitudes and Emotions Associate with Sport Climbing. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 106, 775–784.

Clements, R. (2004). An Investigation of the Status of Outdoor Play. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 5, 68–82.

Colwell, M. J., & Lindsey, E. W. (2005). Preschool children’s pretend play and physical, and sex of play partner: connection to peer competence. Sex Roles, 52, 497–509.

Contini, M., & Manini, M. (2007). La cura in educazione: tra famiglie e servizi. Roma: Carocci.

Coplan, R., Wichmann, C., & Lagace-Seguin, D. (2001). Solitary-active play behavior. A marker variable for maladjustment in the preschool? Journal of Research In Childhood Education, 15, 164–172.

Di Pietro, A. (2003). Ludografie. Bari: La meridiana.

Farné, R. (2005). Pedagogy Of Play. Topoi, 24, 169–181.

Huizinga, J. (1949). Homo Ludens. A study of the play element in culture. London: Routledge (Original Work Published 1939).

Hurwitz, S. C. (2002). To be successful: let them play! Child Education, 79, 101–102.

Kern, P., & Wakeford, L. (2007). Supporting outdoor play for young children: the zone model of playground. Young Children, 62, 12–18.

Le Camus, J. (1980). Pratiques Psychomotrices. De la RPM aux thérapies a mediàtion corporelle. Bruxelles: Mardaga.

Mc Elwain, E. L., & Volling, B. L. (2005). Preschool children’s interaction with friends and older siblings: relationship specificity and joint contributions to problem behaviours. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 247–255.

Parlebas, P. (1986). Éléments de Sociologie du Sport. Paris: Puf.

Parlebas, P. (1997). Giochi e Sport. Corpo, comunicazione e creatività ludica. Torino: Il Capitello.

Parten, W. (1932). Social participation among pre-school children. Journal of Abnormal And Social Psychology, 27, 243–269.

Pellegrini, A. D., & Smith, P. K. (1998). Physical Activity Play: The Nature and Function of a Neglected Aspect of Play. Child Development, 69, 577–598.

Pellegrini, A. D., & Smith, P. K. (1998). The development of play during childhood: forms and possible functions. Child Psychology Psychiatry Review, 3, 51–57.

Piaget, J. (1945), La formation du symbole chez l’enfant : imitation, jeu et rêve, image et représentation. Neuchâtel, Paris: Delachaux et Niestlé.

Pica, R. (2003). Your Active Child: how to boost physical, emotional, and cognitive development through age-appropriate activity. Chicago: Contemporary Books.

Rubin, K. H. (2001). The Play Observation Scale (POS). Center for Children, Relationship And Culture, University Of Maryland.

Schilder, P. (1935). Image and Appearance of the Human Body. London: Kegan Paul.

Scott, E., & Panksepp, J. (2003). Rough-and-Tumble play in human children. Aggressive Behavior, 29, 539–551.

Sluss, D. G., &. Stremmler, A. J. (2004). A sociocultural investigation of the effects of peer interaction on play. Journal of Research In Childhood Education, 18, 293–301.

Smith, D. (1995). How play influences children’s development at home and school. Journal of Physical Education Recreation Dance, 66, 19–23.

Smith, P. K. (1997). Play fighting and real fighting: perspectives on their relationship. In A. Schmitt, K. Atzwanger, K. Grammer, & K. Schafer, New Aspects of Ethology. New York: Plenum Press.

Smith, P. K., Smees, R., & Pellegrini, A. D. (2004). Play fighting and real fighting: using video play back methodology with young children. Aggressive Behaviour, 30, 164–173.

Spray, C. M., & Wang, C. K. J. (2001). Goal orientations, self-determination and pupils’ discipline in physical education. Journal of Sports Sciences, 19, 903–913.

Tsao, L. (2002). How much do we know about the importance of play in child development? Childhood Education, 78, 230–233.

Tucker, P. (2008). The physical activity levels of preschool-aged children: A systematic review. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23, 547–558.

Veitch, J., Bagley, S., Ball, K., & Salmon, J. (2006). Where do children usually play? A qualitative study of parents’ perceptions of influences on children’s active free-play. Health & Place, 12, 383–393.

Vygotskij, L. S. (1979). Il gioco e la sua funzione nello sviluppo psichico del bambino. Riforma della Scuola, 7, 41–60.

Winnicott, D. W. (1971). Playing and Reality. London: Tavistock.
How to Cite
Ceciliani, A., & Bortolotti, A. (2013). Outdoor Motor Play: Analysis, Speculations, Research Paths. Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 3(3), 65-86. https://doi.org/10.26529/cepsj.232