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Children's outdoor playtime, physical activity, and parental perceptions of the neighbourhood environment


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The purpose of this study was to examine the association between the hours of outdoor play and objective measures of physical activity and identify the correlates of outdoor playing time in terms of parental perceptions of the neighbourhood environment. Time spent in outdoor play, both on a typical weekday and a typical weekend day, and neighbourhood perceptions, was assessed by parental self-report for 889 students attending grades 5 and 6 in Toronto, Canada (mean age: 10.50 ± 0.72 years). Physical activity was assessed by accelerometry. Ordered logit models were estimated to explore the influence of neighbourhood perceptions on the time spent playing outdoors. Regardless of a child's age and sex, duration of play was significantly correlated with minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Parental concerns about strangers and fast drivers were inversely associated with duration of play on a typical weekday. Parental safety concerns continue to present a formidable barrier to greater outdoor play.
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International Journal of Play
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Children's outdoor playtime, physical activity,
and parental perceptions of the neighbourhood
Guy Faulkner, Raktim Mitra, Ron Buliung, Caroline Fusco & Michelle Stone
To cite this article: Guy Faulkner, Raktim Mitra, Ron Buliung, Caroline Fusco & Michelle Stone
(2015) Children's outdoor playtime, physical activity, and parental perceptions of the neighbourhood
environment, International Journal of Play, 4:1, 84-97, DOI: 10.1080/21594937.2015.1017303
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Published online: 24 Apr 2015.
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Childrens outdoor playtime, physical activity, and parental perceptions of
the neighbourhood environment
Guy Faulkner
*, Raktim Mitra
, Ron Buliung
, Caroline Fusco
and Michelle Stone
Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, 55 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON,
Canada M5S 2W6;
School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada;
Department of Geography, University of Toronto at Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Road N, South
Building, Mississauga, ON, Canada L5 L 1C6;
School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie
University, 6230 South Street, PO Box 15000, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2, Canada
(Received 20 December 2013; accepted 10 October 2014)
The purpose of this study was to examine the association between the hours of outdoor play and
objective measures of physicalactivity and identify the correlates of outdoor playingtime in terms
of parental perceptions of the neighbourhood environment. Time spent in outdoor play, both on a
typical weekday and a typical weekend day, and neighbourhood perceptions, was assessed by
parental self-report for 889 students attending grades 5 and 6 in Toronto, Canada (mean age:
10.50 ± 0.72 years). Physical activity was assessed by accelerometry. Ordered logit models
were estimated to explore the inuence of neighbourhood perceptions on the time spent
playing outdoors. Regardless of a childs age and sex, duration of play was signicantly
correlated with minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Parental concerns about
strangers and fast drivers were inversely associated with duration of play on a typical
weekday. Parental safety concerns continueto present a formidable barrier to greater outdoor play.
Keywords: play; physical activity; neighbourhood environment; safety
The benecial effects of play in terms of childrens physical, cognitive, emotional, and social
development are well recognized and empirically supported (Cheng & Johnson, 2010; Gleave
& Cole-Hamilton, 2012). As Gleave and Cole-Hamilton (2012) suggest, free play may be the
most natural and effective form of learning and is also vital for childrens happiness(p. 21).
Indeed, play has been declared a right of every childby the United NationsConvention on
the Rights of the Child (1990). There are many types of play, but broadly dened, play is generally
freely chosen, spontaneous, self-directed, and fun (Gleave & Cole-Hamilton, 2012; Gray, 2011).
Active play involves physical activity at energy costs above resting levels but below exercise
levels (Active Healthy Kids Canada [AHKC], 2012). Encouraging or increasing active play
has increasingly come into focus as a public health policy target given its potential role in
helping children accumulate the 60 minutes of daily physical activity currently recommended
for optimal health in Canada (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, 2011).
While the benets of play are acknowledged, there are concerns that play, particularly outdoor
play, is in decline. First, there has been generational change for children of the same age. One US
© 2015 Taylor & Francis
*Corresponding author. Email:
International Journal of Play, 2015
Vol. 4, No. 1, 8497,
study has reported a 25% decrease in time spent playing among six- to eight-year-olds between
1981 and 1997 (Hofferth & Sandberg, 2001). Second, there is a decline in outdoor play as chil-
dren of the same generation age. In a longitudinal cohort study of Australian parents, childrens
average time spent outdoors signicantly declined over a ve-year period (Cleland et al., 2010).
For boys and girls between the ages of 56 and 1011, approximate declines of 160 and 100
minutes per week playing outdoors were reported. Similarly, adults typically perceive that chil-
dren today play outdoors less than they did as children (Clements, 2004). Similarly, a Pan-Cana-
dian survey reported that while Canadians value outdoor time, they strongly agree that children do
not spend enough time outdoors (Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, 2010).
Overall, this type of evidence led Active Healthy Kids Canada (AHKC) to ask in their 2012
Report Card Is active play extinct?In a related campaign, ParticipACTION, a Canadian social
marketing initiative promoting physical activity, initiated the Bring Back Play campaign. Bring
Back Play aims, in part using online education, to reintroduce fun games and unstructured
active play that historically were a large part of childhood (see
Reasons for an apparent decline in play are complex and multifaceted. In the USA, Gray
(2011) traced the decline in play to approximately 1955 when adults started exerting greater
control over childrens activities outside of the world of labour. Increasingly, parental safety con-
cerns are considered central. In the largest international survey on child development and play
(Family Kids and Youth/Research Now, 2010), the most frequently cited reason for restricting
outdoor play was the parental fear of child predators (49%) and trafc danger (43%). Qualitative
research has also consistently documented parental safety concerns as largely explaining
reductions in independent mobility to travel places, and play once there, without adult supervision
(Carver, Timperio, & Crawford, 2008; Jago et al., 2009; Veitch, Bagley, Ball, & Salmon, 2006).
Accordingly, parents may limit their childs outdoor playtime, restrict activities to the home or
supervised spaces, chauffeur children to activities, and increasingly rely on screen-based activities
to keep children entertained. Ergler, Kearns, and Witten (2013) suggest that the relative rarity of
children playing outdoors independently has now normalized supervised indoor play and reduced
childrens opportunities to see outdoor play as an alternative to indoor and/or supervised activi-
ties. How best to reverse this trend is not clear, although researchers have commonly called for
interventions to facilitate travel opportunities and outdoor activities that parents perceive as
safe and supervised (Jago et al., 2009; Mammen, Faulkner, Buliung, & Lay, 2012). This may
also include play opportunities that minimize hazards including adventure playgrounds or the pro-
vision of unstructured play materials that can be used in conventional playgrounds (Brussoni,
Olsen, Pike, & Sleet, 2012).
Relatively few studies have focused on the amount or predictors of childrens outdoor play
(Carver et al., 2008; Marino, Fletcher, Whitaker, & Anderson, 2012). With regard to outdoor
play duration, Marino and colleagues found that 38% of pre-school children (three to four
years old) in the USA played outside at home >2 hours per weekday. Neighbourhood quality
likely produces opportunities for play and informs perception of safety, and subsequently may
inuence whether parents are comfortable allowing their children to spend more time playing out-
doors, unsupervised. Current evidence on the association between physical access to play-related
land uses and a childs participation in outdoor play is mixed. Marino et al. (2012) found that chil-
dren who had a yard near home or who had visited a park or playground, or gone to picnic with a
family member in the last month were more likely to have >2 hours per weekday outdoor play at
home. Having a playground within walking distance of the home was not related to home outdoor
In their longitudinal study of Australian youth, Cleland et al. (2010) found no evidence of an
association between yard size, home physical activity opportunities, local destinations, weather,
International Journal of Play 85
and time outdoors. Instead, individual and social factors may be more important predictors of
decline in time outdoors than physical environmental factors. For example, children with prefer-
ences for indoor activities spent less time outdoors. This highlights that children are also able to
inuence the play outcome in terms of their own preferences for play location or type, for
example. In addition, having outdoor social opportunities was important for younger boys
(56 years) time outdoors, while parent encouragement and supervision were important for
girls and older boys(1012 years) time outdoors (Cleland et al., 2010). In a cross-sectional
study of Swiss youth comprising three age groups (6/7, 9/10, and 13/14 years), age was inversely
associated with outdoor play, while being male and having younger siblings were positively
associated with outdoor play (Bringolf-Isler et al., 2010). Signicant inverse associations were
also reported between outdoor play and parental perception of problems due to trafc, crime,
and garden/park non-availability among the younger children.
Given the established benets of play for childrens development, and in the context of declin-
ing time spent playing for many children, further research is required to identify correlates of play
that might be amenable to policy or practice intervention. There is an international need for such
research. In Canada, an AHKC Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth has been
produced every year since 2004. Based on available data, the report card assesses a number of
indicators such as overall physical activity, organized sport participation, active play, and
active transportation. This report card process was replicated in 14 additional countries from 5
continents in 2014. In the global matrix of physical activity-related grades comparing 15
countries, 10 countries graded the active play indicator as incompletebecause of insufcient
data and/or lack of clarity on the benchmark or the denition of active play (Tremblay et al.,
2014). In addressing this gap, this study explores outdoor play behaviour of grade 5/6 children
in Toronto, Canada. Two research questions were addressed. First, is there an association
between the hours of outdoor play and objective measures of physical activity? Second, what
are the correlates of outdoor playing time in terms of parental perceptions of the neighbourhood
environment and objectively measured access to outdoor play facilities (distance to parks and
schools, and park area)? Parental perception was explored with an assumption that for young chil-
dren, parents (or adult caregivers) take the majority of decisions regarding a childs outdoor mobi-
lity and activity participation (Faulkner, Richichi, Buliung, Fusco, & Moola, 2010; Mitra, 2013).
While we recognize that children may, to various extents depending on their physical and cogni-
tive maturity, inuence these household decision-making processes, and want to be trusted with
decisions with respect to managing risks and safety (Valentine, 1997), a childs neighbourhood
and play-related perceptions were not studied in this paper.
Data and study area
Childrens outdoor play duration, on a typical weekday and a typical weekend day, was explored
using data from Project BEAT (Built Environment and Active Transport;
The data collection took place between April 2010 and May 2011, at 16 public elementary/inter-
mediate schools in Toronto, Canada. Elementary school children attending grades 5 and 6 (mean
age: 10.50 ± 0.72 years) and their parents participated in this study. Our focus was on the elemen-
tary-aged school population because the geographic scale that elementary schools serve may
support walking and cycling for a greater proportion of the school population compared with
middle or high schools (McMillan, 2005). These 16 schools were systematically selected from
a larger sampling universe and were located in either olderurban neighbourhoods (n=8) or
newerinner-suburban neighbourhoods (n= 8). The urban neighbourhoods are typically
86 G. Faulkner et al.
characterized by mixed land use and grid-based street layout. In contrast, the inner-suburban
neighbourhoods were typically built after the Second World War and can be characterized by seg-
regated land use, looped street layout, and a clear hierarchy of streets (Hess, 2009; Sewell, 1993).
These selected neighbourhoods are generally representative of typical traditional and planned
suburban neighbourhood types. Built environment characteristics vary considerably across
these neighbourhoods, providing an opportunity to examine associations between perceived
neighbourhood qualities (e.g. perceived safety, attractiveness, and social capital), access to
parks and schools, and outdoor play.
A total of 1027 parents (i.e. adult caregivers) gave consent for their children to participate.
Childrens physical activity was measured using accelerometry (ActiGraph© GT1M) for a
seven-day period. A ve-second epoch (interval) captured rapid transitions in activity (Stone,
Rowlands, & Eston, 2009a). For inclusion in data analysis, each child required a minimum
10 hours of wear time for at least 3 weekdays and 1 weekend day (Stone, Rowlands, Middleb-
rooke, Jawis, & Eston, 2009). Average daily minutes of accumulated moderate-to-vigorous phys-
ical activity (MVPA) was used as the objectively measured physical activity outcome and
classied according to published thresholds (MVPA: >3581 counts per minute; Stone, Rowlands,
& Eston, 2009b).
Play duration was explored using results from a parental survey. Each parent (i.e. primary
adult caregiver of a child) returned a take-home questionnaire survey, answering structured ques-
tions related to the child who brought the survey home. Parents were asked two questions related
to a childs duration of outdoor play –‘On a typical weekday, how much time does your child
spend playing outdoors?and On a typical weekend day, how much time does your child
spend playing outdoors?. Responses were reported on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from
None(1) to More than 3 hours(7). For statistical analysis, these responses were grouped
into four categories: <30 minutes,30 minutes to 1 hour,12 hoursand >2 hours;an
approach consistent with the categorization used in existing research (Marino et al., 2012).
In order to assess parental neighbourhood environment perception, the parent survey asked
respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of 22 statements related to the physical
and social environments of a childs neighbourhood of residence, neighbourhood of school, and
the school travel route. Parents reported their responses on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from
Strongly Agree(1) to Strongly Disagree(5). Out of these 22 statements, 11 related directly
to a childs neighbourhood of residence and were explored in this paper (Table 1). To analyse
these data, responses were grouped into two groups –‘Agree(1 or 2 on the 5-point scale)
versus Neutral or Disagree(35on the 5-point scale; used as a reference in a multivariate
Out of 1027 studentparent dyads who participated in Project BEAT, 84% (n= 859) of parents
completed all the information required to explore the correlation between environmental percep-
tion and childrens outdoor playtime. However, valid accelerometry data of at least three week-
days and one weekend day was available for fewer students. As a result, the correlation
between outdoor play duration and average daily MVPA was explored using data from 736
In addition, this study explored the association between access to outdoor play facilities and
outdoor play duration. Accessibility to potential outdoor play locations was measured as the dis-
tance between a childs residence and the nearest public park/open space, and the total area of
parks/open space within 800 m (0.5 mile, straight line distance) of a residence (Table 1). Acces-
sibility to schools (i.e. community hubs with outdoor play spaces and equipment) was measured
as a distance to the nearest public and Catholic schools (which likely have open elds/play areas),
which was also estimated using data available from Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and
Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).
International Journal of Play 87
Table 1. Descriptive statistics (n= 859).
Mean (s.d.) %
Socio-economic status
Age 10.50 (0.72)
Boy 47.50
Girl 52.50
Number of vehicles per licensed driver in a HH 0.74 (0.43)
At least one adult HH member works part time or is a homemaker
Yes 34.58
No 65.42
Low-income neighbourhood
Yes 24.33
No 75.67
Distance to nearest park (km) 0.25 (0.12)
Distance to nearest school (km) 0.36 (0.19)
Park area per square kilometre within 800 m of home location (km) 0.09 (0.08)
Parental perception of neighbourhood environment
There are not enough sidewalks
Agree 10.71
Neither agree or disagree 8.03
Disagree 81.26
There are enough crosswalks or trafc lights to help people cross busy streets
Agree 62.25
Neither agree or disagree 10.86
Disagree 26.89
The roads are not attractive enough for a child to walk
Agree 13.15
Neither agree or disagree 14.67
Disagree 72.18
I/we are worried about our child interacting with strangers
Agree 61.93
Neither agree or disagree 11.76
Disagree 26.31
There is heavy trafc near my home
Agree 44.59
Neither agree or disagree 12.45
Disagree 42.96
Most drivers go too fast while driving in my neighbourhood
Agree 47.73
Neither agree or disagree 17.69
Disagree 34.58
People are out and about, talking, and doing things with one another
Agree 60.65
Neither agree or disagree 25.26
Disagree 14.09
There are major barriers to walking in my neighbourhood
Agree 10.36
Neither agree or disagree 7.33
Disagree 82.31
The distance between intersections in my neighbourhood is usually short
Agree 56.58
Neither agree or disagree 22.00
Disagree 21.42
88 G. Faulkner et al.
Statistical analysis
The correlation between daily outdoor playtime and physical activity levels was explored using
linear regression. A childs daily MVPA accumulation was regressed against the amount of time
spent by him/her playing outdoors on a typical weekday/weekend day. To explore the potential
inuence of neighbourhood perceptions on time spent playing outdoors, ordered logit models
(also known as the proportional odds model) were estimated. As mentioned earlier, 11 environ-
mental perception measures were initially considered. Degree of correlation between each of
these potential explanatory variables and outdoor play duration was rst tested with bivariate
ordered logit models (Lee & Moudon, 2006; Mitra & Buliung, 2012). A total of seven variables
demonstrated statistical association at α= 0.1 (Table 2). These seven variables were then included
in the multivariate logit specication.
The ordered logit modelling approach assumes that the relationship between each pair of
outcome groups (i.e. <30 minutes and 30 minutes to 1 hour; 30 minutes to 1 hour and 12
hours; 12 hours and >2 hours) is the same. A coefcient (
l)from a multivariate ordered
logit model represents the correlation between an individual measure and the log odds of being
in a higher level with regard to playtime, given that all of the other variables in the model are
held constant. Separate models were estimated to explore weekday and weekend day outdoor
play durations.
Parent reported data on outdoor playtimes by grade 5 and 6 students (n= 859), during a typical
weekday and a typical weekend day and objectively measured daily MVPA data (n= 736),
were explored. Among these children, 53% were girls, and 24% lived in low-income neighbour-
hoods (Table 1). On a typical weekday, 47% of all children remained engaged in outdoor play for
one hour or longer (Table 3). Children played more on weekends; 65% of all children spent more
than one hour playing outdoors on a typical weekend day.
The association between the time spent by a child on a typical weekday/weekend day and his/
her daily accumulation of MVPA is shown in Figure 1. The gure suggests that regardless of a
childs age and sex, the duration of play was signicantly correlated with a childs physical
activity level. Compared to the reference group of students who spend less than 30 minutes
playing outdoors, longer hours of playtime was associated with higher levels of MVPA.
Results from the multivariate analysis (Table 4) suggest that parental perceptions of the neigh-
bourhood environment associate with the duration of a childs outdoor play, and also that the cor-
relates related to the environmental qualities were different between weekdays and weekend days.
Table 1. Continued.
Mean (s.d.) %
There are lots of shops and restaurants I can walk to in my neighbourhood
Agree 61.00
Neither agree or disagree 8.03
Disagree 30.97
I live in a safe neighbourhood
Agree 80.33
Neither agree or disagree 12.10
Disagree 7.57
Note: HH, household.
International Journal of Play 89
Parental concerns about strangers and fast drivers were associated with the duration of play on a
typical weekday. A child was more likely to play outside for a longer period of time in a neigh-
bourhood where parents perceived that other people were out and about. On a weekend day, par-
ental concern about strangers was associated with the duration of outdoor play. In addition, a child
was more likely to play outside for longer in a neighbourhood that had shops and restaurants
Table 2. Bivariate associations between parental perceptions of the neighbourhood qualities and a childs
outdoor play duration (n= 859).
Hours of
play (week
Hours of
Coef. pCoef. p
There are not enough sidewalks
Agree 0.38 .067 0.18 .364
There are enough crosswalks or trafc lights to help walkers cross busy
Agree 0.15 .256 0.20 .117
The roads are not attractive enough for a child to walk
Agree 0.29 .126 0.43 .021
I/we are worried about our child interacting with strangers
Agree 0.48 .000 0.45 .001
There is heavy trafc near my home
Agree 0.03 .813 0.09 .478
Most drivers go too fast while driving in my neighbourhood
Agree 0.26 .034 0.07 .573
People are out and about, talking, and doing things with one another
Agree 0.58 .000 0.68 .000
There are major barriers/obstacles to walking in my local neighbourhood that
make it hard to get from place to place
Agree 0.26 .206 0.12 .565
The distance between intersections in my neighbourhood is usually short
(100 m or less)
Agree 0.02 .885 0.14 .271
There are lots of shops and restaurants, I can walk in my neighbourhood
Agree 0.30 .020 0.55 .000
I think I live in a safe neighbourhood
Agree 0.37 .017 0.17 .284
Note: Coefcients in bold are signicant at p< .05.
Table 3. Time spent by a child playing outdoors (parental reports).
Typical week day Typical weekend day
Less than 30 minutes 173 20.14 117 13.62
30 minutes to 1 hour 285 33.18 183 21.30
12 hours 334 38.88 283 32.95
More than 2 hours 67 7.80 276 32.13
Total 859 100 859 100
Note: Pearson chi-square of the difference between weekday and weekend day: 164.61 (df = 1), p< .0001.
90 G. Faulkner et al.
within walkable distance, and where other people were out and about. Access to play facilities
(i.e. parks and schools) was not associated with outdoor play duration.
In addition to the potential inuence of environmental perception, the sex of a child was
associated with the time spent playing outdoors. Table 4 shows that boys were more likely to
play outdoors for longer periods of time (both on a typical weekday and weekend day) compared
to girls. Age of a child did not have any inuence on outdoor play duration although it should be
noted that there was a narrow age range within the sample. A child was also more likely to play
longer on a weekend day if at least one adult household member self-identied as a part-time
worker or homemaker. No such inuence was present for weekdays.
The rst objective of this study was to identify whether there was an association between the
hours of outdoor play and objective measures of physical activity. There was a linear relationship
between time spent playing outdoors and MVPA controlling for age and gender. Children spend-
ing 2 hours or more playing outdoors accumulated 6.71 more minutes of MVPA each day (27%
increase on average) on weekdays, and 7.71 more minutes of MVPA each day (38% increase on
average) on weekend days, in comparison to those playing for less than 30 minutes on weekdays.
Similar to previous research (Brockman, Jago, & Fox, 2010; Cleland et al., 2010), our results
suggest that for both boys and girls, encouraging children to spend more time playing outdoors
may be a relatively low-cost and easily implemented strategy to promote physical activity if par-
ental safety concerns can be alleviated. Given the cross-sectional nature of the current study,
experimental research is required to conrm this potential.
The development of an active play target or benchmark would be helpful for assessing
whether children are getting sufcient amounts of active play (AHKC, 2013). During a school
week for elementary school children, one hour per day may not be an unreasonable expectation
given a common two- to three-hour window between the end of the school day and typical dinner
time. However, care is needed in not assuming that children in Toronto are homogenous in having
Figure 1. Effect plot showing the correlation between the hours of outdoor play and physical activity level
(n= 736). The gure plots results from a linear regression model. Effects are adjusted for age and sex of the
child. The dotted (red) lines represent the 95% condence interval bracket.
International Journal of Play 91
access to a regular dinner or a freetwo-hour window in the afternoon. Additionally, some play
may take place after dinner and in the early evening.
In the current study, the majority of children (53%) were spending less than one hour playing
outdoors on a typical weekday. This changed on weekends with the majority of children (65%)
playing for at least one hour or more. This most likely reects an increase in discretionary
time of both child and caregiver on weekends, while highlighting the importance of distinguishing
between weekdays and weekends in future research and intervention. The ndings are not dissim-
ilar from results of the 20092011 Canada Health Measures Survey where parents reported that
their 5- to 11-year-olds spent 4.1 hours per week of physical activity outside of school while par-
ticipating in unorganized activities, whether alone or with a friend. This equates to less than one
hour per school day. Identifying how much time a child should spend playing outdoors is not an
easily answered question. However, identifying a benchmark would provide a basis for future
Table 4. Adjusted ordered logit model of the hours of outdoor play (n= 859).
Hours of play (week day) Hours of play (weekend)
Coef. (SE) pCoef. (SE) p
Socio-economic status
Boy (reference: girl) 0.58 (0.13) .000 0.45 (0.12) .000
Age 0.00 (0.09) .962 0.12 (0.09) .164
Vehicle per licensed driver in HH 0.08 (0.16) .624 0.02 (0.16) .881
At least one adult HH member is a part-time
worker or homemaker (reference: all adults are
full-time workers)
0.02 (0.13) .909 0.42 (0.13) .002
Low-income neighbourhood 0.03 (0.17) .878 0.22 (0.17) .197
Distance to nearest park (km) 0.58 (0.55) .288 0.38 (0.53) .470
Distance to nearest school (km) 0.00 (0.35) .994 0.16 (0.35) .652
Park area per square kilometre within
neighbourhood (km)
0.19 (0.86) .828 0.83 (0.85) .328
Parental perception of neighbourhood
There are not enough sidewalks 0.22 (0.22) .300 0.00 (0.21) .986
The roads are not attractive enough for a child to
0.08 (0.20) .673 0.22 (0.20) .275
I/we are worried about our child interacting with
0.32 (0.14) .019 0.35 (0.13) .010
Most drivers go too fast while driving in my
0.30 (0.13) .025 0.15 (0.13) .255
People are out and about, talking, and doing
things with one another
0.56 (0.14) .000 0.57 (0.14) .000
There are lots of shops and restaurants I can walk
to in my neighbourhood
0.13 (0.14) .348 0.38 (0.14) .006
I think I live in a safe neighbourhood 0.20 (0.16) .221 0.03 (0.17) .853
Constant 1.08 (1.01) .282 2.60 (0.99) .009
Threshold parameter μ
1.60 (0.07) .000 1.29 (0.06) .000
Threshold parameter μ
4.03 (0.13) .000 2.77 (0.08) .000
Log likelihood (constant only) 1078.091 1143.803
Log likelihood (full model) 1046.156 1104.927
Chi-squared 63.88, df = 15 (p< .000) 77.75, df = 15 (p< .000)
Note: HH, household. Hours of play was measured as a categorical variable that includes four classes: <30 minutes, 30
minutes to 1 hour, 12 hours, and >2 hours. Coefcients in bold are signicant at p< .05.
92 G. Faulkner et al.
monitoring efforts, while offering parents and caregivers some indication of what they should be
encouraging and supporting when safe and feasible given the local context and needs of the child.
Initial work is required in developing methods of accurately assessing time spent in outdoor active
The second objective of this study was to explore the correlates of outdoor playing time in
terms of parental perceptions of the neighbourhood environment and access to outdoor play facili-
ties such as parks and school playgrounds; in doing so, our ndings point to some consistencies
that are clearly emerging in the literature. First, girls spend less time playing outdoors than boys.
Based on an international survey, signicantly more boys in all countries played outside or on a
playground than girls (63% compared to 53%) (Singer, Singer, DAgostino, & DeLong, 2009). A
cross-sectional study in Switzerland similarly reported girls engaging less in outdoor play and this
gender difference became more pronounced with age (Bringolf-Isler et al., 2010). This is not an
unexpected nding in the light of extensive research of gender normalization (Butler, 1990) that
may shape both girlsand boysexperiences of, and engagement in, certain types of play and be-
haviour (Holloway & Valentine, 2000; Markula & Pringle, 2006). Intervention may require
gender-specic strategies in increasing outdoor playtime in order to reach those girls and boys
whose lives and environments are prescribed by contemporary gender norms (Browne, Lim, &
Brown, 2007; Massey, 1994). Moreover, as gender, race, and class are thought to intersect
(Puwar, 2004; Razack, 2002), any interventions in an urban centre like Toronto require careful
consideration of the diversity of children in the city.
The accessibility of play facilities (i.e. to park and school) was not associated with a childs
outdoor play. Most children in the sample could be considered to be able to easily access neigh-
bourhood parks (average distance: 0.25 ± 0.12 km) and school grounds (average distance: 0.36 ±
0.19 km). Indeed, the majority of Canadian parents, children, and youth report that they have
access to programmes, parks, and playgrounds (AHKC, 2013). There is a clear distinction to
be made between access and actual usage clearly; building more parks and playgrounds is
not the answer to increasing outdoor play in the studied area of Toronto.
Parental perception of the neighbourhood environment is reported to be more important than
both access to play-related land uses (e.g. presence of a yard) in terms of outdoor time (Cleland
et al., 2010) and population density in terms of outdoor playtime (Bringolf-Isler et al., 2010).
Having concerns about their child interacting with strangers was a consistent correlate of
outdoor play throughout the week, and this concern is commonly the most cited reason for restrict-
ing outdoor play (Family Kids and Youth/Research Now, 2010). In the current study, a child was
more likely to play outside for a longer period in a neighbourhood where people are out and about.
These perceptions may offer the parent a sense of personal safety for their child by providing oppor-
tunities for social interaction and a greater sense of eyes on the street. Holt, Lee, Millar, and
Spence (2015) extend this analogy by suggesting that safety concerns can be alleviated by more
eyes on where children play. For example, by prompting groups of children to play outdoors
together, providing social opportunities (e.g. mass play dates), and encouraging parents to get to
know their neighbours to create a sense of community and neighbourhood cohesion (Aarts,
Wendel-Vos, van Oers, van de Goor, & Schuit, 2010). Such strategies may not be easily
implemented in the light of broader demographic trends of increasing workforce participation
by parents and smaller family size which all reduce neighbourhood foot trafc and opportunities
for interactions with neighbours (Witten, Kearns, Carroll, Asiasiga, & Tavae, 2013).
Notably, other environmental perception-related correlates of outdoor play duration, particu-
larly those related to a childs safety from trafc and strangers, were different for a typical
weekday versus a typical weekend day. On a typical weekend day, a child was more likely to
play outside for a longer period in a neighbourhood with many shops and restaurants within a
walkable distance. On weekends and with more available discretionary time for some parents,
International Journal of Play 93
walkability may facilitate the escorting of their child to play opportunities. Parental concerns of
fast trafc were a signicant barrier to a childs outdoor playtime only on a week day. Perhaps
safety concerns become more salient on days where the child cannot be supervised during the
day due to work commitments and heavier trafc during school days. Increasing trafc
calming measures, reducing speed limits, and increasing numbers of crossing guards may contrib-
ute to improving safety and reducing parental concerns. Such strategies could be implemented
within Safe Routes to School programmes which have been shown to reduce school-aged ped-
estrian risk (Dimaggio & Li, 2013). While the actual causes of these differences cannot be deter-
mined, it again highlights the need to distinguish weekdays and weekends, and potentially that
interventions may need to be tailored for specic days of the week.
This study has a number of limitations and strengths. In terms of limitations, we assessed a
limited number of perceptual neighbourhood characteristics and objectively measured environ-
mental variables that primarily describe physical access to outdoor play-related land uses (i.e. dis-
tance to parks, schools, and neighbourhood park area). Additionally, we used straight line distance
to these locations and this may not reect actual travel distance or time. Future research should
incorporate other objective measures, particularly those reecting safety (e.g. crime rates and
trafc volume), and informal play areas such as the presence of sidewalks (Aarts, de Vries, van
Oers, & Schuit, 2012), in examining the correlates of outdoor playtime. Additionally, there may
be other unmeasured psychosocial factors, as well as other economic, physical, cultural, and
social geographies of exclusions, that may prevent children from playing (Fusco, 2012; Witten
et al., 2013). The relative role of the childs agency, perception of the environment, and their pre-
ferences for different types of play was not assessed. These weaknesses should be considered in the
light of some signicant strengths, including the objective measurement of physical activity, a fra-
mework that was purposefully sampled across different types of neighbourhoods in terms of era of
development and socio-economic status, and examining differences by weekday and weekend.
These ndings should inform an emerging set of policy and community-based initiatives in
Canada by providing critical evidence of how a childs outdoor play may help them reach rec-
ommended levels of physical activity, and by emphasizing the importance of perceptions of
the neighbourhood environment. Experimental research is required in determining whether chan-
ging these perceptions increases a childs opportunity to engage in outdoor play. However, we
acknowledge concerns about instrumentalizingplay by narrowly focusing on the physical
health benets of play and considering it as a tool to achieve other benets (Alexander, Frohlich,
& Fusco, 2012; Lester & Russell, 2008). This may lead to a decrease in opportunities for free
play; paradoxically, through the promotion of play as a purposeful activity for a productive
end, play can no longer be fully free (Frohlich, Alexander, & Fusco, 2012, p. 3). Increased phys-
ical activity is just one of the many, perhaps unintended, side effects of play. Continued dialogue
will be required in balancing the promotion of play for such important public health consequences
with the risk that we lose the essence of what makes play so special. While doing so, we should be
working towards creating the sociocultural, geographic, and economic conditions where more
parents and caregivers feel condent in routinely telling their kids to go outside and play.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
This research was funded by the Built Environment, Obesity and Health Strategic Initiative of the
Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
94 G. Faulkner et al.
Notes on contributor
Guy Faulkner is a Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of
Toronto, and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research-Public Health Agency of Canada (CIHR-PHAC)
Chair in Applied Public Health. Broadly, his research has focused on two interrelated themes: the develop-
ment and evaluation of physical activity interventions; and physical activity and mental health.
Raktim Mitra is an Assistant Professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson Univer-
sity, Canada. His research focuses broadly on the interaction between the neighbourhood environment, active
transportation and physical activity. Recent scholarly publications have explored various aspects of chil-
drens outdoor mobility and activity participation.
Ron Buliung is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto Mis-
sissauga. His research focuses on the everyday lives of children and youth. He studies links between trans-
port planning and policy, the built environment and childrens health. He is a member of the international
editorial board of the Journal of Transport Geography.
Caroline Fusco is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the Uni-
versity of Toronto. Her research interests include childrens play, geographies of sport, physical activity and
cultural environments, feminist post-structuralist theories, (ab)uses of animals in sport, ethnography and
qualitative methods. She loves cycling and walking in Torontos urban park spaces with her dog and, of
course, playing with her seven-year-old son.
Michelle Stone is an Assistant Professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie Uni-
versity. Her research expertise is in accelerometry-based physical activity measurement. She also has experi-
ence assessing physiological health outcomes (body composition, aerobic tness, blood pressure and
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... Social norms and socio-cultural values regarding children's outdoor playing include parental cultures and restrictions. Many studies have reported that boys spend significantly more time outside playing compared to girls (Bringolf-Isler et al., 2010;Remmers et al. 2014;Faulkner et al. 2015;Moran, Plaut, and Merom 2017;Aggio et al. 2017). This is probably because parents are more cautious with their female children compared to males, as confirmed by Kepper et al. (2020). ...
... Similarly, increases in the street density in more urbanized areas are inversely associated with the outdoor playing time among younger children (Bringolf-Isler et al., 2010;Wang et al. 2020). Also, the amount of children's outdoor playing decreases when the playing areas and schools are in farther walkable distance of children's homes Kemperman and Timmermans 2011;Faulkner et al. 2015;Bhuyan 2022). ...
... These factors include parental attitudes towards outdoor playing, social capital, the attractiveness of the neighborhood, accessibility to playing area and facilities and a neighborhood's level of safety (Aarts et al. 2010;Veitch, Salmon, and Ball 2010;Kimbro et al., 2011;Remmers et al. 2014;Mcfarland, Zajicek, and Waliczek 2014;Carmo et al. 2020;Roberts et al., 2016;Yoon and Lee 2019;Parent et al., 2020;Dodd et al. 2021;Loebach et al. 2021). On the other hand, several studies report that parental concern about traffic safety, social safety such as crime and strangers, non-availability of proper playing spaces and screen time are associated with less time playing outdoors in primary school children (Bringolf-Isler et al., 2010;Remmers et al. 2014;Faulkner et al. 2015;Carmo et al. 2020;Yoon and Lee 2019). ...
Full-text available
Children’s reduced engagement in outdoor playing in recent years has contributed to increasing academic and practice interests in understanding this behavior, as well as investigating the effectiveness of combined social, physical and digital interventions on stimulating children’s outdoor playing. This paper provides a systematic review of recent empirical evidence on the correlates of the outdoor playing behavior of children, ages 4–12. In addition, the potential roles of digital interventions in stimulating children’s outdoor playing are explored. The COM-B behavior change model is used to establish relevant correlates and functions of digital interventions. COM-B model defines behavior as the result of an interaction between three components: capability, opportunity and motivation. This model provides a basis for designing effective behavior change interventions. This paper’s contribution is twofold: it presents the case for adding ‘digital environment’ as a new component of the COM-B model, and it further develops a conceptual framework of different functions of digital interventions aiming at stimulating children’s outdoor playing behavior. The findings contribute to the theory-based behavior change interventions stimulating children’s outdoor playing.
... Studies show parents are concerned about both physical and social environment factors regarding their children's outdoor play, such as spaces and facilities for play, crime rates, strangers, traffic conditions (e.g., fast drivers), walkability, aggression by other children, and neighborhood safety in general (Carlson et al., 2010). These preferences are correlated with children's physical activity, with anxiety about neighborhood safety and friendliness leading to less park use and reduced physical activity (Faulkner et al., 2015;Weir et al., 2006). ...
... The overall preferences we identified align with other research findings on parent preferences (Boxberger & Reimers, 2019;Bringolf-Isler et al., 2010;Faulkner et al., 2015), with our results highlighting the preferences of urban, lower-income, minority parents and caregivers. The most common preference, physical attributes, captured specific facilities like playgrounds or swings that are typical settings for outdoor play and physical activity. ...
... Safety is typically of concern to parents and park users in general (Faulkner et al., 2015). Park safety was incorporated into the theme experience in our coding and was the second most mentioned theme across all parents, reinforcing its importance to parents when considering visiting parks with their children. ...
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Public parks offer free and easy to access spaces for outdoor recreation, which is essential for children’s outdoor play and physical activity in low-income communities. Because parks and playgrounds contribute to children’s physical, social, and emotional development, it is critical to understand what makes them attractive and welcoming for families with young children. Parents can be a key determinant to children visiting parks, with their preferences influencing whether or not families visit parks in their neighborhoods. Past studies have posited there are significant differences across racial/ethnic populations in preferred park characteristics, but few have investigated specific park attributes parents from different racial and ethnic groups desire for their children. This study examined attributes associated with parental preferences for parks in low-income diverse communities in New York City, New York and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, USA. Parents’ responses were grouped into 10 categories using content analysis, with four key preference themes identified: physical attributes, experiences, social environment, and amenities. Physical attributes (i.e., playgrounds, sports fields, green spaces) were most desired among all groups. A significant difference across race/ethnic groups was found in New York but not in Raleigh-Durham. In New York, Latino parents had a strong preference for experience attributes (i.e. safety, safe facilities, cleanliness) which differed from other groups. Examining Latino parents in both cities we found no significant difference between cities. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to encourage park use, our finding suggests facilities and park safety are modifiable ways local government agencies could design and maintain parks that would be preferred by parents for their children. Future research should examine how neighborhood context may influence parent preferences related to parks. Parents’ responses were grouped into 10 categories using content analysis, with four key preference themes identified. A significant difference across race/ethnic groups was found in New York but not in Raleigh-Durham. Examining Latino parents in both cities we found no significant difference between cities. Physical attributes (i.e., playgrounds, sports fields, green spaces) were most desired among all groups. In New York, Latino parents had a strong preference for Experience attributes (i.e. safety, safe facilities, cleanliness) which differed from other groups. Future research should examine how neighborhood context may influence parent preferences related to parks and children’s physical activity.
... These constraints are compounded by intensive parenting practices, which limit allowances for children to play and move about unsupervised. Indeed, compared to previous generations, children today have limited capacity for independent mobility, spend less time engaged in outdoor free play and tend to do so much closer to home, and are less likely to use active transportation to move around their neighbourhoods [1][2][3][4][5][6][7]. ...
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One innovative strategy to support child-friendly cities is street-based interventions that provide safe, vehicle-free spaces for children to play and move about freely. School streets are one such innovation involving closing streets around elementary schools to vehicular traffic to improve children’s safety as they come and go from school while providing opportunities for children to play and socialize on the street. Launching these initiatives in communities dominated by automobiles is enormously challenging and little is known about why these interventions are successfully launched in some places but not others. As part of a larger research project called Levelling the Playing Fields, two School Street initiatives were planned for the 2021–2022 school year; one initiative was successfully launched in Kingston, ON, while the second initiative failed to launch in Montreal, QC. Using a critical realist evaluation methodology, this paper documents the contextual elements and key mechanisms that enabled and constrained the launch of these School Streets in these cities, through document analysis and key informant interviews. Our results suggest that municipal and school support for the initiative are both imperative to establishing legitimacy and collaborative governance, both of which were necessary for a successful launch.
... Elsewhere, similar observations of greater weekend than weekday physical activity were observed, as there is more time over the weekend and preschool children are free from school-based routines, where play is limited to recess and after school on weekdays. For instance, Faulkner et al. reported that older children aged 10 years played more outdoors on weekends than on weekdays and that the play duration was correlated with the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity [31]. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed Indonesians’ behaviors and has had an impact on many facets of daily life. People’s lives are becoming increasingly dependent on digital technologies, which is a phenomenon with conflicting effects on people’s health and happiness. This cross-sectional study focused on one such influence, namely, how the shift from the period before to during COVID-19 has affected children’s playtime and sleep duration. As part of a multicenter study, 618 adult caregivers (parents, family members, or babysitters) who visited the kindergarten in question on behalf of preschool children aged 2–5 years (4.04 ± 1.39) were surveyed on the children’s play and sleep habits before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia, particularly Java Island (before pandemic, N = 309; during pandemic, N = 309). ANOVA was used for a statistical analysis to describe the difference between groups and within time collections. Significant favorable relationships were found between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic playtime and sleeping time on weekdays, weekends, and averaged weekday-weekend (r = 0.437; 0.180 and 0.321, all p < 0.05) were detected. Before the pandemic, children’s playtime (4.11 vs. 3.55 h) and sleep duration (10.92 vs. 10.70 h) were significantly greater on the weekend than on the weekday (p < 0.05) but not during the pandemic (playtime: 3.48 vs. 3.45 h and sleep duration: 10.83 vs. 10.80 h; all p > 0.05). The COVID-19 pandemic had no impact on sleep duration or playtime in Javanese preschool children. Efforts should be intensified to promote the value of playtime and sleep duration among children in this age range so that the future of Indonesian children’s can be ensured.
... 34 Moreover, previous studies have not considered adolescent active travel behaviour in the context of the differing perspectives and attitudes of multiple family members 36 37 resulting in most existing studies focusing exclusively on either youth or parental perspectives and neglecting the inter-relation of both perspectives. 38 39 Such a precedent is an important oversight given that in their comparative study of children and adolescents as well as parental barriers on active commuting to school, Aranda-Balboa et al 40 found that there are significant differences between adolescents' and parents' perspectives in terms of perceived social and environmental determinants of active travel. ...
Full-text available
Introduction: Active travel is an important source of physical activity and a primary contributor to overall health among adolescents. To understand and promote active travel behaviour in adolescents, developing a more robust understanding of the predictors of active travel and its associated decision-making processes is needed. Situated within a theoretical socioecological framework for adolescent travel behaviour, the mixed-methods Active tRavel behavioR in the famIly enVironmEnt study aims to quantitatively assess the influence of several predictors of adolescent travel behaviour, and to qualitatively understand the associated decision-making processes of both adolescents and parents. Methods and analysis: Our mixed-methods approach will feature online surveys and semistructured interviews. The online questionnaire, developed in accordance with a theoretical framework of adolescent active travel, will examine adolescent travel behaviour with respect to four different destinations while controlling for multiple relevant individual, social and physical environment factors. To enable the comparison of adolescent and parental perspectives, the questionnaire will be answered by a representative sample of German adolescents (11-15 years old) and their parents.Our semistructured interviews, likewise framed based on the central tenets of the theoretical framework of adolescent active travel, will seek to explore the decision-making process of families regarding travel mode choice via conducting interviews with each member (ie, father, mother, adolescent). To investigate travel decision-making processes, adolescents and their parents will be invited to talk about trips they undertook using both active and passive transport modes during the last week. Thematic analyses will be conducted to highlight the central concerns, priorities and values of participants' decision-making processes. Ethics and dissemination: This study has received ethical approval from the ethics commission of the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg. Study results will be disseminated at scientific conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, study findings will be made publicly available to relevant health, policy, and research stakeholders and groups.
... Future intervention studies should consider analyzing other built environmental variables that can affect PA on weekend days. Additional studies in future should be performed focusing on parental perceptions of the neighborhood environment that can affect children's outdoor playtime depending on the type of the day [42]. ...
Full-text available
A cross-sectional study was designed to evaluate the relationship between the availability and proximity to parks and playgrounds and physical activity (PA). Moreover, the accessibility to parks and playgrounds and its association with active commuting to/from school (ACS) and body mass index (BMI) were analyzed. The sample was composed of children aged 6–12 years old from the BEACH (Built Environment and Active CHildren) study in Valencia, Spain. The availability and proximity to parks and playgrounds were calculated at different buffer sizes (250, 500, 1000 and 1250 m) using geographical information system data. PA out of school was assessed using accelerometers. Sociodemographics and ACS were measured with a parent questionnaire. Objectively measured weight and height were used to calculate BMI. Mixed linear regression analyses were conducted for each exposure variable, adjusting for sociodemographics, neighborhood walkability level, and participant clustering. The number of parks and playgrounds were positively associated with moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) and total PA (TPA); including light PA and MVPA, during weekdays, in different buffer sizes. A negative relationship between distance to the nearest playground and TPA during weekdays was found. In addition, the number of playgrounds was positively related to ACS in different buffer sizes, whereas park land area was negatively related to the BMI percentile. This study highlights the importance of assessing the availability and proximity to parks and playgrounds in children’s neighborhoods when PA behavior and weight status are analyzed. Study findings may help policymakers when targeting interventions to promote health-enhancing behaviors in children.
... Play-based learning activities provide a variety of ways for children to learn different skills and concepts, including literacy. Studies show that play can optimize early childhood development such as moral development (Trisnawati, 2020;Walker et al., 2019), cognitive (Holis, 2016;Kesäläinen et al., 2019), physical motor (Faulkner et al., 2015), emotional social (Ananda & Fadhilaturrahmi, 2018;Cheng & Ray, 2016), language (Holmes et al., 2019), and art (Savva & Erakleous, 2018). ...
Full-text available
Purpose – This study aims to analyze teachers' strategies in introducing literacy to early childhood.Design/methods/approach –The researchers used the case study method. The research subjects are two teachers who teach in early childhood education institutions in Bandung, Indonesia.Findings –The results of this study indicate that in introducing literacy to children, teachers use multiple strategies, such as optimizing role-play activities, stimulation through active teacher conversations that encourage children to communicate (rich teacher talk), utilizing the use of big book media, and focusing on phonological awareness. The study results show that the teacher's role is significant in optimizing literacy learning for children.Research implications/limitations – This case study focuses on literacy learning in early childhood based on the experiences of two teachers in Bandung, Indonesia.Practical implications –This case study shows that multiple strategies are appropriate to introduce early childhood literacy and prepare children for the next level of education.Originality/value – This study contributes to the understanding of literacy in early childhood. In addition, this study recommends that teachers apply multiple strategies in introducing literacy through play activities. Paper type Case study
... Cultural and social norms may initiate unfavorable gender stereotypes that limit girls' social and behavioral expressions; for example, girls and boys may be offered distinct activities based on their gender, most commonly encouraging boys to play vigorously and girls to play quietly [53]. Literature also shows significant differences in independent mobility; boys experience far more freedom and spend more time in activity-enhancing environments than girls, particularly outdoors [46,54,55]. The time that children spend outdoors is consistently and positively correlated with their PA [56]. ...
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The benefits of physical activity (PA) on children’s health and well-being are well established. However, many children do not meet the PA recommendations, increasing their risk of being overweight, obese, and non-communicable diseases. Environmental characteristics of homes and neighborhoods may constrain a child’s ability to engage in PA, but evidence is needed to inform country-specific interventions in understudied low-income countries. This study assessed the associations between parental-perceived home and neighbourhood, built environment characteristics, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among children in Kampala city, Uganda. In this cross-sectional study, data were obtained from 256 children (55.5% girls) aged between 10 and 12 years and their parents. Children’s MVPA was measured using waist-worn ActiGraph accelerometers. The environments were assessed using a valid self-reported parent survey. Linear regression models with standard errors (clusters) were used to analyze the relationship between environmental variables and children’s MVPA. Sex-specific relationships were assessed using sex-stratified models. Play equipment at home (β = -2.37, p <0.001; unexpected direction), residential density (β = 2.70, p<0.05), and crime safety (β = -5.29, p <0.05; unexpected direction) were associated with children’s MVPA. The sex-specific analyses revealed more inconsistent patterns of results with a higher perception of land use mix associated with less MVPA in girls (irrespective of school type attended), and higher perceptions of sidewalk infrastructure (β = -12.01, p <0.05) and walking and cycling infrastructure (β = -14.72, p <0.05) associated with less MVPA in girls attending public schools only. A better perception of crime safety was associated with less MVPA among boys and girls attending private schools (β = -3.80, p <0.05). Few environmental characteristics were related to children’s MVPA in Uganda, and findings were largely inconsistent, especially among girls. Future studies are needed to understand the ecological determinants of health-related PA behaviors among children in Uganda.
... Aspects of the wider built environment including land-use patterns, built and natural features (e.g., architectural details, quality of landscaping), and transportation systems shape human behaviours regarding physical activity Brownson et al., 2009;Jackson et al., 2013). Previous research has identified environmental concerns, such as a lack of safe outdoor spaces and activities (Faulkner et al., 2015;Hesketh et al., 2017), as significant contributors to sedentarism among both young children and adolescents. These concerns and their relationships to physical activity can be observed as household-level factors, including the perceived appropriateness of housing and convenience/safety of neighbourhood facilities (Ball et al., 2001). ...
Background The importance of physical activity in early childhood for establishing long-term health is well understood, yet with the exception of recent WHO guidelines, public health initiatives rarely focus on children below school age. Moreover, little is known about how domestic spaces and day-to-day caring activities influence preschool-age children's physical activity. To examine this, we explore caregivers' perceptions of young children's activities within and outside the home, and we consider how lived experiences of caregiving align (or not) with current physical activity policy. Methods Semi-structured interviews with 49 parents and grandparents from 16 families were conducted in Oregon, USA; each family had a child aged 3–5 years. Questions focused on caregivers' perceptions of and involvement with children's body weights, activities, and food practices. The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Our analysis drew on a materialities framework, attending to relationships between children, caregivers, spaces in and around the home, and everyday activities. Results Four themes were developed: appropriateness of outside versus inside spaces for physical activity; making accommodations for physical activity in the home; relationships among space, activity type, and caregiver attention; and mundane movement, or the low-intensity movement of everyday life. Together, the results highlight that children's day-to-day activities cut across a spectrum of movement, mediated by available spaces and caregiving affordances. Conclusions Attending to the full spectrum of children's movements highlights how children's activities interlink with family routines, available indoor and outdoor spaces, and the intended uses of these spaces. These interplays between space, care, and physical activity enacted at the household level should inform an integrated, systems-level public health approach to increasing health and well-being for preschool-age children. Suggestions for improvement include coordinating policy development across multiple fields (e.g., housing design, urban planning) that structure the activities of children and their caregivers across ‘home’ and ‘outside’ spaces.
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This systematic review discusses 25 recent studies (from 2000 to 2019, 13 quantitative and 12 qualitative) on the associations between neighbourhood characteristics and outdoor play of children (7–14 years old). Both physical and social contexts are shown to influence outdoor play, though studies differ on which elements matter most. Play‐friendly environments with informal and safe opportunities are more stimulating than formal playgrounds. Moreover, parents' social safety concerns limit children's independent outdoor play. Investigation of moderating factors is limited to age and gender differences and offers inconclusive evidence. Further research should collect evidence from both parents' and children's perspectives on how and for whom neighbourhood features matter.
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The purpose of this study was to examine factors that influenced childhood active free play. Participants were 13 young adults who resided in one western Canadian city. They took part in semi-structured and walk-along interviews during which they were asked about their memories and experiences of play. Analysis showed that, whereas parental restrictions and safety concerns were limiting factors, a sense of community and safety in numbers facilitated their involvement in active free play. However, the young adults thought these factors had since become eroded from modern society. We concluded a reduced sense of perceived safety exists because there are fewer eyes on where children play.
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Over the past half century, in the United States and other developed nations, children's free play with other children has declined sharply. Over the same period, anxiety, depression, suicide, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism have increased sharply in children, adolescents, and young adults. This article documents these historical changes and contends that the decline in play has contributed to the rise in the psychopathology of young people. Play functions as the major means by which children (1) develop intrinsic interests and competencies; (2) learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow rules; (3) learn to regulate their emotions; (4) make friends and learn to get along with others as equals; and (5) experience joy. Through all of these effects, play promotes mental health. Key words: anxiety; decline of play; depression; feelings of helplessness; free play; narcissism; psychopathology in children; suicide Children are designed, by natural selection, to play. Wherever children are free to play, they do. Worldwide, and over the course of history, most such play has occurred outdoors with other children. The extraordinary human pro-pensity to play in childhood, and the value of it, manifests itself most clearly in hunter-gatherer cultures. Anthropologists and other observers have regularly reported that children in such cultures play and explore freely, essentially from dawn to dusk, every day—even in their teen years—and by doing so they acquire the skills and attitudes required for successful adulthood. 1 Over the past half century or so, in the United States and in some other developed nations, opportunities for children to play, especially to play outdoors with other children, have continually declined. Over this same period, measures of psychopathology in children and adolescents—including indices of anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism—have continually increased.
What is it "to govern in an advanced liberal way" (N. Rose 1996, 53)? For some time now, I have been interested in questions of space and how bodies are governed, (dis)located, and (dis)placed. In a study of locker rooms (Fusco 2003), I concluded that ideologies of regimes of "healthification" (Fusco 2006) pervade fitness spaces. Healthification is a term that I have coined to describe how the continuous deployment of a broad range of specialized strategies and technologies, expertise, and techniques (e.g., policy and educational initiatives, architectural arrangements, urban planning, measures of public order, health and safety regulations, self and other observations) produce "healthified" spaces and subjectivities. Healthified space is a "spatial practice" (Lefebvre 1991), and it demonstrates institutional commitments and individuals' responsibility for the consumption of regimes of healthification. The concept of healthification was inspired by several authors' analyses of health under neoliberalism. According to scholars, neoliberal regimes of health demonstrate commitments to healthism (Crawford 1980; Lupton 1995), because they "encourage" individuals to take responsibility for their own health and well-being and/or the health of others through cultures of philanthropy (King 2006), as well as the consumption of privatized health services and products of health and wellness (Herrick 2011; Ingham 1985; Lupton 1995; Petersen and Bunton 1997; Petersen and Lupton 1996; Wheatley 2005). Drawing from these ideas about the effects of neoliberalism's healthist discourses, I am concerned about how neoliberalism impacts on the production of physical activity and health spaces.
Recently created policies and programs target urban form as a primary factor in changes in children’s travel behavior to school. Unfortunately, little research exists that supports a direct relationship between urban form and a child’s trip to school. This article first discusses the transportation and health problems these policies attempt to address. It then reviews the current planning and public health literature on the relationship between urban form and children’s travel behavior. Finally, a conceptual framework is outlined that addresses the complexity of the relationship between urban form and a child’s trip to school to guide future policy and research.
... con- ducted in as little as ten-minute bouts three times a day —the equivalent of ... Boarnet and Crane 2001; Boarnet and Sarmiento 1998; Crane and Crepeau 1998; Boarnet and Greenwald ... per- sonal health and the environment, discomfort, and no knowledge of safe travel routes ...
Outdoor play is an important contributor to children's physical activity and the prevalence, correlates, and environmental predictors of it among young children are not well characterized. This study aims to estimate the amount of time preschool-aged children attending Head Start spend playing outdoors at home and school, and whether aspects of the home and school environment are associated with greater outdoor play. We analyzed data (n=2529) collected in spring 2007 in the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES). Overall, 37.5% of children played outside at home >2 h per weekday. Children who had a yard near home to play in or who had visited a park or playground or gone on a picnic with a family member in the last month were more likely to have >2 h per weekday outdoor play at home, but having a playground within walking distance of the home was not related to home outdoor playtime. On average children played outdoors at Head Start for 36 min per day. The amount of time children played outdoors at home was not related to school outdoor time.
A high value is attributed to playing, particularly for its role in children's development, health and well-being. There is a recent awareness, however, that the way children play has changed considerably over the last few decades with a decline in ‘free-play’ documented. In response, there has been a call to resurrect free-play. Concomitantly, public health alarms over a childhood-obesity ‘epidemic’ have emerged. A utilitarian conception of play has thus begun to be advanced as a means to ‘fight’ the childhood obesity epidemic and physical inactivity. We reflect on the fact that views of play as useful are beginning to seep into public health discourse and this may constitute a danger for the health and well-being of populations. We explore some of the popular discourses regarding play and analyse them, drawing on social theory, to describe a nascent one that involves a critical paradox.