An exploration of outdoor play and wellbeing in Northern Irish primary schools

Catherine Latimer*, Karen Winter, Katrina Lloyd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increasingly poor physical and mental health outcomes for children in Northern Ireland are, in part, attributed to a sedentary, indoor lifestyle and a concern that children are not availing of outdoor play opportunities. For some children, the school playground is the only accessible outdoor space available to them and is therefore a critical site in terms of promoting wellbeing. This paper reports the findings of an exploratory study which investigated school staff’s attitudes and children’s views, perspectives and experiences of play in school playgrounds in Northern Ireland. The findings illustrate that the school playground shapes the way in which children access outdoor play through its physical, policy and social setup; and that the design, structure, management and provision of the school playground all play a role in shaping children’s play behaviours and enjoyment of play. Findings also indicate that children are not being consulted about their play space, and schools lack policies and training opportunities for staff regarding outdoor play. Based on the findings and applying concepts associated with the Affordance Framework [Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates], the transformative potential of restructuring primary school playgrounds in Northern Ireland is highlighted and implications for future research, policy and practice are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-320
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Play
Issue number3
Early online date23 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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