A1 Journal article (refereed)
Outdoor activities and motor development in 2–7-year-old boys and girls (2021)

Sääkslahti, A., & Niemistö, D. (2021). Outdoor activities and motor development in 2–7-year-old boys and girls. Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 21(SI1), 463-468. https://doi.org/10.7752/jpes.2021.s1047

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsSääkslahti, Arja; Niemistö, Donna

Journal or seriesJournal of Physical Education and Sport



Publication year2021


Issue numberSI1

Pages range463-468

PublisherEditura Universitatea din Pitești

Publication countryRomania

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessOpen Access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/74900


Problem Statement: Parents of young children favor indoor activities for their children, because staying inside
supports comfortable daily routines in the family timetable, safety issues and clothing. However, playing
outdoors supports children’s development, offering multiple challenges to overcome and the possibility to learn
new skills. Approach: Based on Gibson’s theory of affordances (1977), outdoors can be seen as an excellent
learning environment for children to reach the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1987). Purpose: This
paper describes Finnish nature and four seasons as an environment to support children’s motor development and
inspire outdoor playing. The Skilled kids participants (N= 1136, 2- to 7-year-old children) were chosen by
cluster randomization from childcare centers representing young children’s motor competence in geographically
different parts of Finland. Children’s motor competence was measured with the Test of Gross Motor
Development, TGMD-3 (Ulrich, 2019). Results: Young children living in countryside and in small cities had
better motor competence and spent more time playing outdoors than children living in metropolitan area. This
difference in the amount of outdoor play and the motor competence underlines the importance of outdoor
facilities. The description of the Finnish outdoor environment, such as forest, water, snow and ice, reveals
environmental factors that may attract and motivate children to challenge their motor abilities. Therefore, the
environment can support physically active playing, increasing young children’s overall physical activity and
motor competence. Conclusions: Versatile environments stimulate children’s motor development. Parents and
teachers of young children should be encouraged to let their children play outdoors during all seasons in different
weather conditions. Appropriate clothing guarantees free playing, daily timetables in day care should allow
outdoor playing sessions, and outdoor play yards should have large area with different affordances for children’s
free use.

Keywordschildren (age groups)preschool children (age group)development of motor skillsmotor skills (general)physical activityoutdoor sportsplaying (children's games)physical environmentnatural environment

Free keywords motor competence; children; outdoor playing; environment; physical activity

Contributing organizations

Related research datasets

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2021

JUFO rating1

Last updated on 2024-03-04 at 20:07