Meaningful Conflicts in Nature? Exploring Peer Conflict in a Nature Preschool During Outdoor and Indoor Play


  • Annette Pic University of Delaware
  • Myae Han University of Delaware


peer conflict, outdoor, nature, free play, early childhood education, preschool


This study explored peer conflict among preschoolers during indoor and outdoor free play in a nature-based preschool. We collected data through observations and video recordings of 15 preschoolers and analyzed and coded the data using an event sampling method. The findings revealed differences in primary conflict catalysts between indoor and outdoor settings. Play ideas was the main conflict catalyst in the outdoor setting, while distribution of resources was the primary conflict catalyst in the indoor setting. The implications of the study suggest that outdoor nature environments seem to provide children more meaningful conflict situations around play ideas rather than the mere possession of material.

Author Biographies

Annette Pic, University of Delaware

Annette Pic (MS, Ph.D. 2023) is a doctoral student at the University of Delaware in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences with a concentration in Early Childhood Policy & Systems. Her areas of interest are child-initiated learning in nature-based preschools, and peer conflict resolution in the context of free play. She has past experience working with children and families in the New Directions Early Head Start Program and the Early Learning Center both affiliated with the University of Delaware.

Myae Han, University of Delaware

Myae Han, Ph.D. is a professor of Early Childhood Education in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware, chair of Early Education/Child Development SIG at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and past president of The Association for the Study of Play (TASP). Her area of research includes play and language/literacy. She serves in the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood Professional Development. She has been a reviewer of various journals including Early Education and Development, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Journal of Literacy Research, and International Journal of Early Childhood Research.