Background to the Study
Young children all over the world have the innate desire to explore limits, venture into new experiences and develop their capacities from a very young age and from their earliest experiences. At the same time, they need to feel safe and secure physiologically and psychologically at all times especially while within and around the school playgrounds for optimum participation in outdoor activities.(Ajayi 2013) Children learn through play and playgrounds are among the most important natural environments that enhance participation in both the structured and unstructured outdoor activities. Children therefore use the playground as a learning environment with corresponding behavioral consequences that enable them to digest both pleasant and unpleasant experiences by freely using their senses of taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing. Consequently, they start to take control of their feelings related to the experiences (Ologun and Kahriman-Ozturk, 2011). School playgrounds are the designated outdoor areas located in the school where children play or participate in sports and games with or without stationary and manipulative equipment Johnson, Christie & Wardle (2005). Moore (1996) views the playground as conceptually a pedagogical space centered on outdoor play.
For young children, safety involves feelings of security (freedom from physical and emotional fear and all dangers), stability (regular healthcare and nutrition for physical and intellectual development) and, regularity and predictability within the environment they live and learn (Seifert & Hoffnung, 1987). School playground safety can be viewed as the measures undertaken by learners, staff, parents and other stakeholders to either minimize or eliminate risky conditions or threats in playgrounds that may cause accidents, body injuries, emotional and psychological distress to the young children (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 2010; Ministry of Education (MOE) & Indicators of a safe school playground are visible strategies in promoting the rights of children to play such as providing adequate and properly demarcated and fenced play spaces with properly organized security; developmentally-appropriate play equipment and materials that are in good state of repair and maintenance; adequate surfacing that is fall-absorbent; proper supervision of the pre-schooners at play, and well planned outdoor activities. According to Prinsloo (2005) this is an environment where there is no physiological and psychological harm to encourage children to participate fully in physical activities. Participation in outdoor activities involves how children are engaged in or interacts with inputs in their outdoor environments to indicate acquisition of physical (motor), intellectual and social skills as the observable outcomes.
Playground safety for young children is a human as well as constitutional rights issue aimed at strengthening children’s participation in outdoor learning activities. Safe playgrounds are an important component of child-friendly schools that are grounded on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989) and other frameworks such as the World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA, 1990), the World Education Forum (WEF, 2000), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000), International Conference on School Safety (ICSS, 2007) and for African states the African Charter on the Right and Welfare of the Children (ACRWC, 1999). These policy frameworks obligate the world governments to ensure young children play in caring or child friendly outdoor environments that are child-centered, inclusive, gender equitable and effective in enhancing excellence in acquisition of physical (or motor) and psychosocial skills. The CRC (1989) and the ACRWC (1999), for example, point out that children have a right to play in environments that offer physical and emotional support in order to participate actively in and benefit from their learning and developmental activities. The WCEFA (1990) and the WEF (2000) recommend school environments that serve as protected sanctuaries and which focus on children’s physical, mental and socio-emotional needs for safety, security and intellectual stimulation for lifelong learning.
In Nigeria pre-school playground safety has not been given much attention and much of the data on playground design and practices has to be sourced from researches done in developed countries like the USA and Britain, where issues about early childhood development, care and education have been given a lot of importance in research.
Statement of the Problem
Safety in the school playground forms an integral component of children’s participation in outdoor activities. A study by the International Institution for Educational Planning (IIEP,2004) shows that a learner’s success relies on the environment in which he or she is learning. Part of the explanation for this link is the mediating influence of school climate, pre-school playground safety policies and programmes, teacher professionalism, time spent on activities, the leadership and management of the school.
However, this ideal link is constrained by a few gaps existing in most preschool playgrounds in Nigeria whether public, private, urban or rural). Pre-school playground safety has not been given much attention in research and much of the data has to be sourced from researches done in developed countries like the USA and Britain where early childhood development, care and education have been given a lot of importance. Government policy documents on school safety make no direct mention of pre-school safety and such information has therefore to be inferred from these documents. The ECD institutions are also characterized by poor physical conditions showing deferred maintenance or unperformed planned maintenance, repairs, replacement and renewal. These stigmatic constraints can be linked to lack of resources, perceived low priority and negative attitude about children’s play or deferral of the activity.
Objectives of the Study
The study will be guided by the following objectives:-
- Examine the influence of school playground surfacing on the participation of pre-school children in outdoor activities.
- Establish to what extent school playgrounds maintenance inspection influences the participation of pre-school children in outdoor activities.
- Find out to what extent supervision of children in the playground contributes towards the participation of pre-school children in outdoor activities.
- Establish the constraints to school playground safety affecting the participation of pre-children in outdoor activities.
The study was guided by the following questions;-
- How does school playground surfacing influence the participation of pre-school children in outdoor activities?
- How does school playgrounds maintenance inspection impact on the participation of pre-school children in outdoor activities?
- To what extent does supervision of children in the playground contribute to their participation in outdoor activities?
Significance of the Study
The findings of this study can be of significant benefit to early childhood development and education (ECDE) teachers, administrators, school managers, playground supervisors, concerned parents and child care organizations to give them a better understanding of the playground safety needs of pre-school children. The findings can be a basis on which preschools can develop school-based playground safety programmes. Safety and participation in outdoor activities for children are human rights issues. The study findings will therefore be significant to the Ministry of Education (MOE), which is responsible for policy formulation, to plan programmes that integrate playground safety into early childhood programmes. The findings will also make a significant contribution to existing knowledge on playgrounds that can be used in development of comprehensive pre-school strategies and policies where the overall purpose will be to promote, protect and improve the safety status of pre-school children while in the playgrounds.
Scope of the Study
This study is aimed at investigating the influence playground safety on pre-school children outdoor activities in Ado local government area of Ekiti state. The study will cover three preschool center in Ado local government area of Ekiti state.
Definitions of Terms
Fall zone: The minimum distance from any part of the equipment to any hard surface, such as border, paths, tree trunks or adjusted equipment.
Hazards: A hidden, unforeseen or unexpected danger to the unsuspecting children who are engaged in play or using equipment for learning fun and enjoyment.
Influence: The effect playground safety has on children to cause them to engage themselves in outdoor activities.
Outdoor: Tasks a child is involved in outside the classroom to help acquire knowledge.
Activities: motor and social skills, attitudes and values.
Participation Engagement, involvement or taking part in outdoor activities for acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes that will aid intellectual, physical and socio-emotional development
Playground Outdoor environments children use for play, fun and enjoyment and to gain experiences that will enhance their physical, intellectual, social and emotional development
Pre-school : Formal institution for 3-5 years old children.
Pre-schooner: The 3-5 years old child in the pre-school
Private Pre-school: Institution of early learning owned and managed by individual and organizations and that receive no government funding.
Public pre-school: Pre-school managed by parents in terms of the provision of finances, physical facilities, staff, and teaching and learning materials without any interventions from the government or any other organization.
School playground: State of stability in a school’s playground in terms of being free of any danger such as accident and injuries. It also concerns having child-friendly environment that enhance children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth and development.
Safety Surfacing: Shock absorbing or impact attenuating surface material that is spread on the surface under and around a piece of equipment onto which a child falling or exiting from play equipment would be expected to land.
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