Creating Outdoor Play Environments for Infants and Toddlers
As a caregiver, it's important that you provide the infants and toddlers in your care with opportunities for safe and age-appropriate outdoor play. However, determining which factors to consider when creating outdoor play environments for infants and toddlers isn't always easy. The Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale, Revised Edition (ITERS-R) lists the following as criteria for an excellent rating in outdoor play environments:
- 7.1 | Outdoor space has two or more types of surfaces permitting different types of play (e.g., grass, outdoor carpet, rubber cushioning surface, decking).*
- 7.2 | Outdoor area has some protection from the elements (e.g., shade in the summer, sun in the winter, wind break, good drainage).*
- 7.3 | Materials used daily stimulate a variety of large muscle skills (e.g., crawling, walking, balancing, climbing, ball play).*
With these criteria in mind, here are a few other tips you can use when creating safe and age-appropriate outdoor play environments for infants and toddlers:
- Research federal, state, and local regulations and any other guidelines on playgrounds for young children. Government websites and the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) Public Playground Safety Handbook are great resources for learning about playground regulations and guidelines.
- Provide appropriate equipment and materials. A few examples shared in the ITERS-R include providing an outdoor pad or blanket for young infants; small push toys, balls, and ramps for crawling for older infants; and age-appropriate climbing equipment, slides, tunnels, etc. for toddlers. Make sure some of the equipment in the outdoor play environment has handholds for children to use to pull up, stand, and walk.
- Choose the best surfacing for your outdoor play environment. Make sure you provide both soft and firm play surfaces for infants and toddlers in your outdoor play environment. You'll also want to consider the playground surfacing you want to use for fall zones to protect children if they trip or fall off a piece of equipment.
- Ensure accessibility for children of all abilities. Make sure your outdoor play environment is accessible to all of the children in your program. Children with disabilities should have equal access to the equipment and outdoor play.
- Provide appropriate supervision. Be sure to provide required supervision and maintain ratios while outdoors.
- Ask any questions you have before purchasing materials and equipment. This will help you choose the right materials and equipment for the outdoor play environment you're creating for the infants and toddlers in your care. If you have questions about any of the materials or playground equipment available from Kaplan, contact your local representative or our Playground Department.
*Check out the ITERS-R for other criteria and Notes for Clarification on the three criteria listed.