Determinants of children’s engagement in outdoor play: case of Early Childhood Centres in Kwale County, Kenya
Kithungu, Elisha Philip
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Outdoor play is a very important aspect of childhood. It comes with a list of social, physical, cognitive and emotional benefits. Studies that have been done internationally shows that children rely on environment play materials and caregivers support to achieve their outdoor play goals. However, there is scanty information about factors that influence children’s engagement in outdoor play in Africa, especially in Kenya. Thus, this study sought to investigate whether available play materials, teachers’ involvement, allocation of time and nature of playground determines children’s engagement in outdoor play activities. The study findings may help the Ministry of Education, County Government and teachers to make right decisions regarding outdoor play in early childhood centres. The study was pegged on Maria Montessori’s theory of play. The literature reviewed in this study included availability of play materials, time allocation for outdoor play, teacher involvement in children play, and nature of outdoor playgrounds. Descriptive survey design was employed to explore determinants of children’s engagement in outdoor play. As per this study, children’s engagement in outdoor play was the dependent variable while independent variables comprised of aspects such as availability of play materials, allocation of time for outdoor play, teachers’ involvement in children’s play and nature of outdoor playgrounds. The study targeted 240 Early Childhood Centres in Kwale County. Stratified random sampling was used to generate two strata: public and private, while simple random sampling was adopted to obtain 27 teachers. Head teachers were purposively selected from each sampled early childhood centre. Data were gathered using questionnaire and observation checklist. The questionnaire was administered to teachers and head teachers while the observation checklist was used to record researchers’ observation about the available play materials, nature of playground, teacher’s roles during outdoor play and time allocated for children’s play activities. Qualitative and quantitative data analysis procedures were employed. Data were presented using frequency distribution tables, pie-charts and graphs. Chi-square was used to test the strength and direction of relationship dependent and independent variables at level of significant of 0.05(P<0.05). The study established that most commonly used play materials in preschool were balls and bean bags. The study also found that time allocated for structured outdoor play was between 30 and 40 minutes and most teachers perceived the time as enough for outdoor play. Further, the study found that teachers have different roles during children’s outdoor play. Some of the roles of teachers were coaching, supervising, and providing play materials. Finally, the study established that most preschool did not have enough play spaces. Head teachers viewed their school playground as inadequate to accommodate all the children. The study established that there was a correlation between available play materials, allocated time for play, teacher involvement in children play activities, nature of outdoor playground and children engagement in outdoor play. The study recommended that teachers and head teachers should come up with ways to acquire more play equipment, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) should increase time for outdoor lesson, the county government should ensure schools are registered and they comply with ministry guideline on playgrounds, and school management should fence the playgrounds to keep unwanted guests at bay.