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Affordances for Risky Play in Preschool: The Importance of Features in the Play Environment

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The purpose of this article is to qualitatively explore the affordances for risky play in two different preschool outdoor environments, an ordinary preschool playground and a nature playground, based on Gibson (The ecological approach to visual perception, 1979) theory of affordances and Heft’s and Kytteä’s (Heft in Children’s Environ Qual 5(3) 29–37, 1988; Kyttä in J Environ Psychol 22:109–123, 2002, Kyttä in J Environ Psychol 24:179–198, 2004) extended work on this theory. Observations of risky play in two Norwegian preschools, one ordinary preschool (where play took place on an ordinary playground) and one nature and outdoor preschool (where play took place in a nature area) were conducted. In addition, the children were interviewed about their actualized affordances of risky play, their mobility license, and the constraints on risky play. The results show that both play environments afford an extensive amount of risky play among the children, and that the degree of mobility license tolerated by the staff is an important factor for the children to actualize these affordances. Differences in the qualities and features in the two play environments were found to have an impact on the degree of riskiness in the play situations. As such, the nature playground afforded a higher degree of risk in children’s risky play.

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Correspondence to Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter.

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Sandseter, E.B.H. Affordances for Risky Play in Preschool: The Importance of Features in the Play Environment. Early Childhood Educ J 36, 439–446 (2009).

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