Today, children are having fewer and fewer outdoor experiences while they are increasingly being immersed in media. Under such circumstances, outdoor experiences in playground in the ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) settings can become an individual’s earliest memory, which he or she carries throughout his or her life. That said, some ECEC settings only have a small playground or no playground at all. Whereas schoolyards are primarily used as sports fields in elementary school and above, playgounds in ECEC settings are outdoor spaces that can serve a wide range of functions in terms of children’s experiences and development. However, variability among playgrounds, their functions, and methods for improving playground quality have not been studied academically. And, although the characteristics of ECEC playgrounds have been discussed in terms of hardware—i.e., architectural design and landscaping—no research has been conducted from the perspectives of the children and nursery school teachers who actually use such spaces. Therefore, as part of its Playground Research project, the Center for Early Childhood Development, Education, and Policy Research (CEDEP) conducted questionnaire surveys and on-site surveys of 1,740 ECEC settings throughout Japan between 2015 and 2019 to investigate how playgrounds can be improved. The results of this investigation, summarized in language that is accessible to ECEC educators, is this book. The book introduces three unique ideas.
First, building on the idea that playgrounds play an extremely important role in terms of improving the quality of early childhood education and care, the book introduces the concept of “playground quality” and investigates not only large and well-equipped playgrounds but, also, various creative schemes that can be deployed in terms of “software.” Second, the book presents these schemes in a scholarly manner based on evidence gathered through a first-ever nationwide survey of playgrounds while also introducing various examples and international guidelines related to playgrounds. Third, for ECEC settings with small playground or with no playground at all, the book introduces the concept of “extended playgrounds”—i.e., the idea of using community resources that include play areas such as public park —as a means of building communities and spaces centered around ECEC settings. The uniqueness of the ideas presented has been recognized by the Association for Children’s Environment (ACE) and earned the book the ACE Paper/Book Award in 2019. The book is an attempt to investigate children’s environment from an ecological perspective and to translate this research with the goal of social implementation.
The book comprises four chapters. The first chapter discussing the topic from a theoretical standpoint, while the second and third chapters introduce examples and data related to quality from six vantage points, and the fourth chapter discusses training aimed at improving playground quality. We hope that the reader can see and get a sense for the full range of playgrounds and the various theoretical vantage points that exist while enjoying the many tips and tricks, etc. included throughout the book.
(Written by AKITA Kiyomi, Professor, Graduate School of Education / 2020)
The Center for Early Childhood Development, Education, and Policy Research
The 15th Association for Children’s Environment ACE Paper/Book Award in 2019 (Association for Children’s Environment April 5th, 2020)