Outdoor Play Decisions by Caregivers of Children with Disabilities: a Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies

  • Julia StermanEmail author
  • Geraldine Naughton
  • Elspeth Froude
  • Michelle Villeneuve
  • Kassia Beetham
  • Shirley Wyver
  • Anita Bundy


Outdoor play offers children vast benefits for development and well-being. However, children with developmental disabilities participate less in outdoor play than their typical peers. Typically, adults make decisions about children’s play routines, especially for children with developmental disabilities. The purpose of this systematic review was to synthesize the results from qualitative studies on decision making processes of caregivers around outdoor play in children with developmental disabilities using ecocultural theory. Studies addressing decision making of parents, teachers, and other caregivers of primary school-aged children with developmental disabilities relating to outdoor play were searched in CINHAL, Medline, Web of Science, ERIC, Scopus, PsycINFO, and SocINDEX from 1990 to May 2015. Eleven predominately qualitative studies met the inclusion criteria. The CASP quality of reporting quality checklist was used to evaluate the transparency of reporting for included studies. An ecocultural framework was used for thematic analysis and synthesis. Results showed caregivers, families, schools, and communities consider many factors when deciding about when, where, how, and if outdoor play occurs. Factors comprised: motivation for participation in outdoor play; social and built environments; familial and school considerations including time and finances; caregivers’ awareness of opportunities; and child considerations such as their skills, health, and interests. A dynamic interaction exists between and within the ecocultural environment of a child with developmental disabilities to determine decision outcomes in outdoor play. Consequently, to increase the opportunities for benefits associated with outdoor play, each ecocultural layer must be targeted.


Parent Teacher Kid Thematic analysis Qualitative synthesis 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


An Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (number DP140101792) obtained by AB for the Sydney Playground Project (Levelling the Playing Field: Starting with the School Playground), made possible the PhD scholarship of JS.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors have no competing interests to report.

Supplementary material

10882_2016_9517_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 12 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Catholic UniversityNorth SydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of SydneyLidcombeAustralia
  3. 3.Australian Catholic UniversityFitzroyAustralia
  4. 4.Institute of Early ChildhoodMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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