Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Teaching , Learning & Education


Today children spend less time outdoors as compared to the previous generation that warrants the need to promote outdoor experiences. Nature and outdoor play help children grow physically and psychologically, as well as reducing their stress. Parents schedule and/or limit most of their children's lives because of obvious reasons such as neighborhood fear and safety, busy work schedule, and so on. Parents' attitudes toward and knowledge about the value of outdoor play and nature may be a key factor in restricting their children. The objectives of this study are to assess parents' attitudes and values and what other factors (work schedules, lack of knowledge, fear of their child's safety and concern about weather) might influence parents to limit their children's time spent in outdoor play. Bronfenbrenner's Bio-Ecological Theory provides the conceptual framework for understanding the factors that influence child development and is the theory best suited to studying the factors influencing parents' decisions about their children's outdoor play. Forty Midwestern parents returned completed questionnaires and the data was analyzed using SAS for frequency and correlations. The majority of parents (87 .5%) participated in the study were white/Caucasian, had completed at least a bachelor's degree and were employed fulltime. All parents had positive attitudes and gave high values about outdoor play as evident from the variety of outdoor plays. Although most of the parents felt their neighborhood was safe for their children to play in, they also indicated that their children should be supervised while playing outdoors. This study revealed that more than half of the parents agreed that neighborhood fear and safety influence their decision to let their children play outdoors play. Overall parents have sound knowledge about nature and outdoor play, in reality it was not so. Approximately 70% of the parents indicated that their busy work schedules influence their decision regarding their children's outdoor play. Weather was not a major factor in determining whether or not children were allowed to play outside, provided that they were dressed appropriately. Another result indicated the time period from 4-6 p.m. was TV watching/ video games playing time for the children, which can be a potential time slot for intervening to play outdoors. A variety of factors affect parents' attitudes, values, and beliefs (macrosystem) toward outdoor play: microsystem (such as home, day care center), mesosystem (neighborhood), and exosystem (work place schedule) ultimately influences the development of individual children. More awareness through appropriate agencies (City Park and recreation departments, summer camps, day care centers, and other various organizations) would enhance the parent's knowledge levels about the benefits of outdoor play and nature thereby possibly influencing their decisions. However, further studies are required before making any recommendations.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Outdoor recreation for children -- Middle West Play environments -- Middle West Children and the environment Parents -- Attitudes



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University