Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-5-2023


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Eva Simms

Committee Member

Jessie Goicoechea

Committee Member

Mike Arfken


outdoor environments, nature, play, child development, ecophenomenology, child psychology, community-engaged research


This dissertation outlines the development of a phenomenological and restorative approach to playscape design. Restorative Playscape (RPD) is a phenomenologically based approach to designing children’s play environments that involves a process of attending to, noticing, and uncovering natural affordances for play and development, and making enhancements to the environment so that the affordances can experienced in their full potential and capacity to support children’s growth and development. The restorative approach involves the application of three phenomenological methods to identify the affordances of the outdoor play environment: 1) Child Guided Walks- to explore the affective and relational dimension of children’s experience of place 2) Place Study- to provide a deeper and more experiential understanding of the environment’s natural affordances 3) A Educational and Learning Needs Questionnaire- to provide additional insights into what developmental affordances should be considered based on the developmental needs of young children. In 2019, the RPD approach was applied to the re-design and development of an outdoor play environment at an Early Years Centre in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Fourteen children participated in the Child Guided Walks, fourteen adults participated in the Place Study, and three educators completed the Educational and Learning Needs questionnaire. The data revealed experiential affordances that support children’s emotional, psychological, social, and physical development and well-being. In addition to physical movement and socialization, the study revealed that outdoor play areas can afford emotional safety, predictability, stimulate imagination and creativity, provide rich sensory experiences, and experiences that cultivate esteem, confidence, and mastery. The data was translated into a re-design plan for the outdoor environment, which was aimed at enhancing experiential affordances, making them more available and accessible to the children during play. Further research is needed to measure and evaluate the impact of restorative play environments on children’s emotional and psychological well-being.