ArticlePDF Available

Neighbourhood Factors in Children's Outdoor Play: A Systematic Literature Review

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

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.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geograe – 2021, DOI:10.1111/tesg.12505, Vol. 0, No. 0, pp. 1–16.
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
NEIGHBOURHOOD FACTORS IN CHILDREN’S
OUTDOOR PLAY: A SYSTEMATIC LITERATURE
REVIEW
KIRSTEN VISSER & IRINA VAN AALST
Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning,Faculty of Geosciences,Utrecht University,
Utrecht, the Netherlands. E- mail: K.Visser@uu.nl (Corresponding author)
Received: February 2021; accepted November 2021
ABSTRACT
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.
Key words: children; outdoor play; urban areas; neighbourhoods; global north; literature review
INTRODUCTION
The amount of time children play inde-
pendently outdoors has decreased over the
last five decades in the global north (Karsten
2005; Skår & Krogh 2009; Holloway & Pimlott-
Wilson 2014; Woolley & Griffin 2015). In the
Netherlands, for example, 30 per cent rarely
play outside (Jantje Beton 2018). This trend
is detrimental: playing outside contributes to
children’s physical health as well as to their so-
cial, cognitive and motor functions (Solomon-
Moore et al. 2018). Moreover, it can promote
social cohesion, social integration and commu-
nity building (Bennet et al. 2012).
In an annotated bibliography, McKendrick
(2000) identified several studies on play-
grounds and play environments. Those con-
ducted between 1970 and 2000 deal with
themes like providing formal playgrounds or
commercial play environments and engag-
ing children in designing playgrounds. Most
of these studies concern formal playgrounds
rather than the neighbourhood context.
Holloway and Valentine’s (2000) Children’s
Geographies – Playing, Living, Learning considers
informal opportunities but do not pay much
attention to the neighbourhood context.
Interest in that context – and neighbourhood
effects – has since increased (Oakes et al. 2015).
The UN estimates that 60 per cent of the
world’s children will live in cities by 2025
(Lilius 2014; Boterman & Karsten 2015). As
noted by Randolph (2006, p. 5), however, ‘con-
temporary strategic planning has almost be-
come child- blind, with the new higher density
centres being built essentially for the childless
in mind’. Thus, insights into factors that con-
tribute to children’s outdoor play can be ap-
plied to city planning.
With rising anxiety about outdoor safety
(Pain 2006; Veitch et al. 2006; Lee et al. 2015;
Horton & Kraftl 2018), parents are reluctant
to leave children unsupervised. Valentine and
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creat ive Commo ns Attri bution-NonCo mmercial License, which permits
use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial
purposes.
KIRSTEN VISSER & IRINA VAN AALST2
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
McKendrick (1997) already noted the ‘chang-
ing nature of childhood’; since then, play has
become even more controlled, privatized and
subject to adult supervision (Holt et al. 2008;
Pynn et al. 2019). Children and parents have
busy schedules, leaving less time for outdoor
play and supervision by parents (Veitch et al.
2007; Witten et al. 2013). There is a concomi-
tant shift towards indoor, screen- focused activi-
ties (Clements 2004; Witten et al. 2013).
The aim of this review is to discern which
neighbourhood factors make outdoor play
attractive. The findings might be used to en-
courage children to spend more time outdoors
and thereby to promote the health and devel-
opmental benefits of outdoor play. Systematic
reviews are considered a powerful form of re-
search, primarily for evidence- based decision-
making (Tranfield et al. 2003; Kraus et al. 2020).
Whereas studies on the same topic can pro-
duce different results, a systematic review syn-
thesizes their findings. Petticrew and Roberts
(2006) liken an individual study to a single
response in a quantitative survey. Only com-
bining multiple responses can overcome biases
and provide a reliable answer to the research
question. Furthermore, collecting literature by
standardized methods allows the reviewer to
compile studies from different disciplines.
METHODS
PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for
Systematic reviews and Meta- Analyses) guide-
lines were followed for this review (Liberati et
al. 2009). These were developed in reaction to
poor reporting and inadequate systematization
and transparency, which made a review likely
to be biased by the subjectivity of the author
(Hodgkinson & Ford 2014). PRISMA guide-
lines consist of a 27- item checklist and a four-
phase flow diagram. The checklist includes
items deemed essential for transparent report-
ing of a systematic review.
A systematic search in Scopus was con-
ducted in June and July 2019 using three sets
of key words: children/young people (Child*
OR ‘Young People’); neighbourhood environ-
ment (neighb*rhood OR ‘physical environ-
ment’ OR ‘social environment’ OR ‘public
space’ OR ‘open space’); and outdoor play
(‘outdoor play’ OR ‘outside play’ OR ‘free
play’). The search was limited to articles pub-
lished in English after 2000. Only articles in
peer- reviewed journals were included because
they are widely accepted as higher- quality aca-
demic sources (Kraus et al. 2020). Furthermore,
books and grey literature are difficult to incor-
porate in a transparent methodology.
To increase comparability, we included arti-
cles based on the following criteria:
1. The main topic was ‘free outdoor play’,
which we defined as unstructured, spon-
taneous, accessible and taking place in a
child’s free time (Skår et al. 2016). Play in
the context of the home/garden, school
or out- of- school activities was excluded;
2. Independent variables included elements of
the social and/or physical neighbourhood
environment. Social neighbourhood envi-
ronment comprises variables dealing with
residents and their interactions. Physical
neighbourhood environment comprises
built elements (dwellings, public spaces,
infrastructures). Studies dealing with the
household or school environment without
any relation to the neighbourhood were
excluded;
3. The focus was on children 7– 14years old,
or an overlapping age group. This range
reflects the fact that children play inde-
pendently from approximately seven years
onwards (Soori & Bhopal 2002), while the
nature of play shifts after age 14 towards
‘hanging out’ (Pyyry & Tani 2016)
4. Studies about children with physical or de-
velopmental disabilities or chronic diseases
were excluded;
5. The research site was an urban or suburban
environment;
6. The study concerned Europe, North
America, Australia or New Zealand;
7. Intervention studies were excluded;
8. Review studies were excluded, but their lit-
erature lists were scanned for studies that
could be included.
The initial search yielded 226 unique hits, 186
of which were excluded after screening the title
and abstract. Most of these 186 did not focus
on outdoor play, did not include neighbour-
hood variables, studied the wrong age group
or only considered children with disabilities or
NEIGHBOURHOOD FACTORS IN CHILDREN’S OUTDOOR PLAY 3
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
chronic diseases. An additional 28 studies were
excluded after more comprehensive screening
using the same parameters but based on a full-
text reading. Finally, the 12 meeting all criteria
were included in the review.
The snowball method added 13 papers.
These were selected by first skimming titles and
publication dates in the reference lists of the
original 12 papers. In case of hesitation, the ab-
stracts were consulted and 26 papers were then
read thoroughly. After this phase, 13 papers
were excluded because they did not meet one
or more criteria. Snowball sampling yielded
only qualitative studies. The initial search cap-
tured quantitative studies but was less effective
for qualitative studies. While quantitative stud-
ies explicitly state the aim to investigate the
association between neighbourhood variables
and outdoor play, this aim may be couched ‘be-
tween the lines’ in qualitative studies.
Overall, the search procedure yielded 25
studies that met all criteria (see Figure1).
RESULTS
Study descriptions – The 25 papers included in
this review differed widely (see Table1). Thir-
teen studies were quantitative: of these, one was
longitudinal (Cleland et al. 2010), one quasi-
longitudinal (Handy et al. 2008) and the rest
cross- sectional. Various methods were used,
such as surveys, observations, accelerometery
and GIS. All quantitative studies controlled
for the possible impact of socio- demographic
factors like gender, age and socio- economic
status. The other 12 were qualitative: one was
longitudinal (Karsten 2003), the rest cross-
sectional. Interviews and observations were
sometimes combined with visual methods such
Figure 1. PRISMA flow diagram of study selection process.
KIRSTEN VISSER & IRINA VAN AALST4
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Table 1. Summary of reviewed studies.
Study description
Physical factors Social factors Moderating factors
Perspective
Green
space
Presence
and quality
of play-
grounds
Traffic
safety
Social
safety
Social
cohesion
Presence
of other
children Age Gender
Race,
ethnicity
Quantitative papers
Aarts et al.
(2010)
The Netherlands, cross-
sectional survey in four
medium- sized citiesa
x(0) x(0) x(0) x(+) x x Parent
Aarts et al.
(2012)
The Netherlands, cross-
sectional survey in four
medium- sized cities
x(0) x(−) x(+/−/0) x x Parent/
researcher
observations
Bringolf- Isler et
al. (2010)
Switzerland, cross- sectional,
survey & GIS in one large
city and two villages
x(+) x(0) x(+) x(0) x(+) Parent
Cleland et al.
(2010)
Australia, longitudinal survey
in a large city
x(+) x x Parent
Handy et al.
(2008)
USA, cross- sectional & quasi-
longitudinal survey in
eight (sub)urban neigh-
bourhoods in northern
California
x(+) x(+) x(+) x(+) x Parent
Faulkner et al.
(2015)
Canada, cross- sectional,
survey & accelerometery in
a large city
x(+/0) x(+/0) Parent
Loucaides and
Tsangaridou
(2017)
Cyprus, cross- sectional survey
& accelerometery in a small
city
x(+) Child/parent
Page et al.
(2010)
UK, cross- sectional survey in
large city
x(+/0) x(+) x Child
Reimers et al.
(2018)
Germany, cross- sectional
survey & observations in
suburb of a small city
x(0) x(+/−) x Researcher
observations
NEIGHBOURHOOD FACTORS IN CHILDREN’S OUTDOOR PLAY 5
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Study description
Physical factors Social factors Moderating factors
Perspective
Green
space
Presence
and quality
of play-
grounds
Traffic
safety
Social
safety
Social
cohesion
Presence
of other
children Age Gender
Race,
ethnicity
Veitch et al.
(2008)
Australia, cross- sectional
survey and behavioural
mapping in a large city
x (0) x(0) Child
Veitch et al.
(2010)
Australia, cross- sectional
survey and accelerometery
in a large city
x (+) x(+) x(+) x(+/0) x(+) Child/parent
Wilkie et al.
(2018)
UK, cross- sectional survey in
two districts including a
small city
x(+) x(−) x Child
Yoon and Lee
(2019)
USA, cross- sectional survey
and GIS in a large city
x(+) x(+/0) x Parent
Qualitative papers
Brockman et al.
(2011a)
UK, interviews in a medium-
sized city
x x x x Child
Brockman et al.
(2011b)
UK, interviews in a medium-
sized city
x x x x x Child
Burke (2005) UK, photo- diary & interviews
in two neighbourhoods in a
large city
x x x Child
Castonguay and
Jutras (2009)
Canada, photographs & inter-
views in a poor neighbour-
hood of a large city
x x x x x x x Child
Ferré et al.
(2006)
Spain, observations & inter-
views in two small cities
x x x x x Child/parent
Holt et al.
(2008)
Canada, mind- mapping in
two neighbourhoods in a
large city
x x x Child
Horton and
Kraftl (2018)
UK, cross- sectional survey &
mapping exercise in three
wards in a large city
x x x x x x x Child
Table 1. (Continued)
(Continues)
KIRSTEN VISSER & IRINA VAN AALST6
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Study description
Physical factors Social factors Moderating factors
Perspective
Green
space
Presence
and quality
of play-
grounds
Traffic
safety
Social
safety
Social
cohesion
Presence
of other
children Age Gender
Race,
ethnicity
Karsten (2003) The Netherlands, longi-
tudinal observations &
interviews in four neigh-
bourhoods in a large city
x x x Child/parent
Solomon- Moore
et al. (2018)
UK, interviews in a medium-
sized city
x x Parent
Veitch et al.
(2006)
Australia, interviews in three
neighbourhoods in a large
city
x x x x x x x Parent
Veitch et al.
(2007)
Australia, focus groups in a
large city
x x x x x Child
Witten et al.
(2013)
New Zealand, focus groups in
suburbs of large city
x x Parent
aThe following ranges were used here: large city >500,000, medium- sized city 150,000– 500,000 and small city <150,000. Unless otherwise mentioned the research
took place city- wide.
Table 1. (Continued)
NEIGHBOURHOOD FACTORS IN CHILDREN’S OUTDOOR PLAY 7
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
as mental mapping or photography. The full
set of studies covered a wide range of national
contexts: most were conducted in metropoli-
tan regions in the UK (7, including 2 in Bristol
by Brockman et al. 2011a, 2011b) and Australia
(5, including 4 in Melbourne by Veitch et al.
2006, 2007, 2008, 2010); the remainder were
conducted in the Netherlands (3, including
2 by Aarts et al. 2010, 2012), Canada (3), USA
(2), Switzerland (1), Germany (1), Cyprus (1),
Spain (1) and New Zealand (1).
Many age categories were used. One study
included children from 0 to 18years (Karsten
2003), another from 0 to 16 (Handy et al. 2008).
The rest focused on specific ages within the
4– 14 range, though these limits differed widely.
All but one study focused on a general popula-
tion, the exception being Yoon and Lee (2019)
whose sample was 69.3 per cent Hispanic.
How is children’s outdoor play measured?
The studies measured outdoor play in various
ways (see Table1). Of the quantitative studies,
11 recorded outdoor play in minutes per day,
hours per week or number of activities. Two
(Loucaides & Tsangaridou 2017; Reimers
et al. 2018) determined the physical activity
level using an accelerometer or observations.
Finally, four registered play locations and how
these were being used (type of equipment,
level of independence etc.). The qualitative
studies combined different perspectives on
outdoor play by considering where children
played, e.g. location and situational context
(neighbourhood), but also how and why
certain playgrounds were used, e.g. in terms of
type equipment and design or in terms of the
presence of peers and friends.
Nine studies (6 quantitative and 3 qualita-
tive) examined the impact of neighbourhood
characteristics from only the parent perspec-
tive, 10 (3 quantitative and 7 qualitative) only
used child perspectives, and four (2 quantita-
tive and 2 qualitative) included both parent
and child perspectives. One study only used
researcher observations (Reimers et al. 2018)
and one (Aarts et al. 2012) combined re-
searcher observations with parent perceptions.
Which neighbourhood factors matter?
According to Boxberger and Reimers (2019),
the neighbourhood environment could be
considered ‘a key setting for outdoor play’.
Neighbourhoods have an independent effect
on outdoor play over and above individual
characteristics; therefore, environmental
factors are central to this review. Two kinds
of environmental factors, physical and social,
are studied in a variety of ways. Physical
factors include the amount of green space,
the walkability and traffic safety of the
neighbourhood, and the presence and quality
of play facilities. Social factors include social
safety, social environment (social cohesion and
social capital) and the presence of friends.
Physical factors Green space – Six quantitative
studies focused on access to green spaces
in the neighbourhood. Bringolf- Isler et al.
(2010) and Handy et al. (2008) found an
association between availability of parks and
children’s outdoor play; Aarts and colleagues
(2010, 2012), on the other hand, found
no effect. Veitch et al. found no association
between distance to green spaces and use of
playgrounds in their 2008 study, but their 2010
study showed that children use playgrounds
more often when parents take them to the
park at least once a week.
Eight qualitative studies included green
space as an important factor (Burke 2005;
Veitch et al. 2006, 2007; Holt et al. 2008;
Castonguay & Jutras 2009; Brockman et al.
2011a, 2011b; Horton & Kraftl 2018). Many
children and parents affirmed its impor-
tance. They liked features of the natural en-
vironment such as being able to hide in the
bushes, climb trees and play with their pets.
Natural materials also supported imagina-
tive play, as grass or branches could be used
for building and construction (Burke 2005;
Veitch et al. 2007). Moreover, open spaces al-
lowed children to play with balls, ride bikes
etc. (Veitch et al. 2007). Green spaces were
described as ‘lovely’, ‘restful’ and having a
‘good atmosphere’ for play (Horton & Kraftl
2018). However, in certain neighbourhoods
often with a low socio- economic status –
green space was scarce (Castonguay & Jutras
2009) or considered unsafe, for example, be-
cause of teenagers hanging around (Veitch et
al. 2006).
KIRSTEN VISSER & IRINA VAN AALST8
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Traffic safety – Eight quantitative studies
included a variable related to traffic safety:
either perceptions of traffic safety, or attributes
such as walkability or living on a cul- de- sac. A
positive association was found between outdoor
play and perceived traffic safety (Bringolf- Isler
et al. 2010; Veitch et al. 2010; Faulkner et al.
2015) and living on a cul- de sac (Handy et al.
2008; Veitch et al. 2010). The studies of Aarts et
al. (2010, 2012), on the other hand, found no
association between traffic volume and speed
and outdoor play for most of their age- gender
subgroups. Their 2012 study, however, had
mixed results for various elements of the built
environment (e.g. roundabouts, sidewalks,
intersections), as those mattered differently
for the subgroups. Differences between groups
also emerged in two other studies. Wilkie et al.
(2018) found a negative association between
traffic- related concerns and after- school time
outdoors among boys but not among girls.
Yoon and Lee (2019) found that density of
traffic accidents led to less play only for white
children and that density of intersections led to
less play only for Hispanic children. Walkability
of the neighbourhood was not found to be
associated with outdoor play (Aarts et al. 2010;
Faulkner et al. 2015; Yoon & Lee 2019).
Children and parents were worried about
traffic safety in the neighbourhood, as men-
tioned in eight of the qualitative studies (Ferré
et al. 2006; Veitch et al. 2006; Holt et al. 2008;
Castonguay & Jutras 2009; Brockman et al.
2011b; Witten et al. 2013; Horton & Kraftl 2018;
Solomon- Moore et al. 2018). Parental concerns
impeded children’s independent outdoor play
and were widely internalized by their children.
Interestingly, Witten et al. (2013) shows that traf-
fic volume and speed were the primary concerns
among parents in middle- income areas, while
parents in low- income areas expressed people-
related fears regarding strangers, gangs and
drunken youths. Cul- de- sacs were frequently
mentioned as a destination for play shielded
from traffic (Veitch et al. 2006; Holt et al. 2008;
Brockman et al. 2011b). This was particularly the
case for younger children, while older children
used areas further from home (Holt et al. 2008).
Presence and quality of play facilities – Seven
studies focused on the presence and quality of
formal outdoor play facilities, which resulted
in rather surprising outcomes. Yoon and Lee
(2019) found an association between minutes
play per day and number of playgrounds for
white but not for Hispanic children. Aarts et al.
(2010), Bringolf- Isler et al. (2010), Reimers et al.
(2018) and Veitch et al. (2008), however, found
no associations between the presence or quality
of these facilities and outdoor play. According
to Veitch et al. (2010), parents’ satisfaction with
playgrounds was associated with more play
there, but only in the weekend. Finally, contrary
to expectations, Aarts et al. (2012) found that
the presence of formal play areas was negatively
associated with outdoor play and that the quality
of such areas was unrelated to outdoor play.
The authors, however, indicate that the used
indicator (number of play facilities per km2)
ignores the size and quality of play facilities
as a possible important factor in relation to
children’s outdoor play.
While the quantitative studies indicated
limited influence of formal playgrounds on
children’s outdoor play, the quality and acces-
sibility of playgrounds was discussed in eight
of the qualitative studies (Karsten 2003; Burke
2005; Ferré et al. 2006; Veitch et al. 2006, 2007;
Castonguay & Jutras 2009; Brockman et al.
2011a; Horton & Kraftl 2018). Parents’ and
children’s accounts revealed several character-
istics that facilitated outdoor play. First of all,
high levels of maintenance and renovation of
equipment were deemed important to keep
children interested (Karsten 2003; Veitch et
al. 2006; Ferré et al. 2006; Castonguay & Jutras
2009; Horton & Kraftl 2018). Negative aspects
like litter, broken equipment, dog waste, graf-
fiti and deferred conservation of natural areas
discouraged parents and children from using
certain playgrounds. Interestingly, the design
of the ideal playground differed between chil-
dren and adults. Parents prioritized safety and
hygiene, while children desired enjoyment and
risk (Ferré et al. 2006; Veitch et al. 2006; Horton
& Kraftl 2018). Second, the playground should
appeal to different age groups or genders.
Horton and Kraftl (2018) found that children
valued equipment that was ‘fun to play with’
for all members of the family. Besides play
equipment, parents expressed a desire for
bike paths, picnic facilities, clean toilets, shade
NEIGHBOURHOOD FACTORS IN CHILDREN’S OUTDOOR PLAY 9
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
and open space (Veitch et al. 2006). What was
considered ‘fun’ differed. Veitch et al. (2006,
2007), Burke (2005) and Ferré et al. (2006)
reported that play equipment was often suited
to younger children and boring to older chil-
dren. In the study of Veitch et al. (2007), chil-
dren noted a lack of variety for different age
groups, pointing out that the same equipment
was found in other parks. The same study also
showed that older children from schools with a
low socio- economic status were not concerned
about elaborate equipment or facilities as long
as they could play with their friends and be in-
dependent from adults and/or safe from teen-
agers. Furthermore, three studies showed that
girls and boys preferred different elements in
playgrounds (Karsten 2003; Ferré et al. 2006;
Brockman et al. 2011a).
Social factors – The impact of social
neighbourhood factors on children’s outdoor
play falls into three categories: social safety,
social norms and cohesion, and the presence
of other children. Ten quantitative and 10
qualitative studies included at least one of
these factors in their analysis.
Social safety – Six quantitative studies (Handy
et al. 2008; Page et al. 2010; Veitch et al. 2010;
Bringolf- Isler et al. 2010; Faulkner et al. 2015;
Wilkie et al. 2018) included social safety in
their models. The outcomes are, however,
mixed. One set focused on perceptions of
neighbourhood crime. Bringolf- Isler et al.
(2010) found no association between parents’
perception of crime and children’s outdoor
play, while Handy and colleagues (2008)
found that lower levels of perceived crime
were associated with more outdoor play. Page
et al. (2010) found an association between
children’s perceptions of crime, noise and
bullying in the neighbourhood and outdoor
play, but only for girls. Wilkie et al. (2018),
on the other hand, reported that heightened
crime- related concerns were associated with
increased odds of time outside after school.
The authors indicate that it is possible that
parents of children who play outside more
often are more aware of potential dangers,
and thus express more concerns. The second
set of studies focused on general feelings of
unsafety and stranger- danger. Here too, results
were mixed. Faulkner et al. (2015) found that
outdoor play was associated with perceived
stranger- danger, but not with perceived safety.
Veitch et al. (2010), on the other hand, found
no associations between stranger- danger and
outdoor play but did find an effect of parental
perceptions of safety. Page et al. (2010) found
no effect of children’s perceptions of ‘safety at
night, daytime and fear of strangers’ on their
outdoor play.
Eight qualitative studies explored the effect
of social safety. Safety issues included the pres-
ence of strangers, bullies, older kids, drug deal-
ers or dogs (Veitch et al. 2006, 2007; Castonguay
& Jutras 2009; Brockman et al. 2011b; Witten et
al. 2013; Horton & Kraftl 2018; Solomon- Moore
et al. 2018). Several studies showed that parents’
concerns played a central role (Veitch et al.
2006; Brockman et al. 2011b; Horton & Kraftl
2018; Solomon- Moore et al. 2018). Solomon-
Moore et al. (2018), for example, stated that
the internalization of fear was especially preva-
lent among mothers; by allowing their child to
play outside unsupervised they would be con-
sidered a ‘bad parent’. This ‘culture of fear’ in-
fluenced how and when parents allowed their
child to interact with their local environment,
when in reality these fears were dispropor-
tionate. Ferré et al. (2006), on the other hand,
found that safety concerns referred mainly to
the equipment, maintenance and traffic rather
than the behaviour of other people. Three
studies compared social safety concerns in
neighbourhoods with a low, middle and high
socio- economic status; two showed that these
concerns were heightened in neighbourhoods
with a low socio- economic status (Veitch et al.
2006, 2007; Horton & Kraftl 2018). At the same
time, Castonguay and Jutras (2009) found a sur-
prising popularity of streets and alleys in a poor
neighbourhood. They argued that children
there are more likely to play outdoors because
of crowded homes and limited opportunities
for other out- of- school activities.
Several qualitative studies referred to strat-
egies for dealing with perceived unsafety and
unfamiliarity. Play indoors or in alternative
private spaces such as backyards was seen as
a ‘safe’ option by many parents (Veitch et al.
2006; Solomon- Moore et al. 2018). But children
KIRSTEN VISSER & IRINA VAN AALST10
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
felt ‘stuck’ in their homes (Veitch et al. 2007).
Particularly for children from poor families,
spending time outdoors might offer opportu-
nities to escape cramped homes (Castonguay
& Jutras 2009). Parental strategies to avoid
danger, such as involving children in orga-
nized play in other settings (Witten et al. 2013)
or chaperoning kids, was often described in
negative terms such as ‘bubble- wrapped’ kids
(Solomon- Moore et al. 2018). From a positive
angle, Brockman et al. (2011b) referred to the
mobile phone as a license to play; by alleviating
parents’ safety fears, it promoted outdoor play.
Social norms and cohesion – Three quantitative
studies included a variable for neighbourhood
social environment, such as social cohesion
(Aarts et al. 2010), social norms (Page et al.
2010) and interaction with neighbours (Handy
et al. 2008). All three found that a positive
neighbourhood social environment was related
to more outdoor play.
Three qualitative studies dealt with the
role of social norms and cohesion. Veitch et al.
(2006) revealed strong social norms regarding
‘unsupervised’ outdoor play. For example, the
majority of parents living in quiet areas allowed
their child to play in their street, whereas this
was considered unacceptable in less- quiet
areas. Furthermore, Witten et al. (2013) noted
the importance of neighbourhood social con-
nections and ‘eyes on the street’. Parents with
busy lives knew fewer people in the neighbour-
hood, which made them feel unsafe. This was
particularly the case in low- income neighbour-
hoods, where parents’ employment uncer-
tainty and financial pressure meant they had
to work long hours. Finally, Castonguay and
Jutras (2009) showed that children’s favourite
places were near home. Proximity to the home,
associated with familiar spaces and friends,
conferred both children and parents with a
sense of comfort and safety.
Presence of other children – Five quantitative
studies investigated how the presence of other
children in the neighbourhood influenced
outdoor play. Bringolf- Isler et al. (2010),
Loucaides and Tsangaridou (2017) and Veitch
et al. (2010) found a positive association
between friends nearby and time spent playing
outdoors. The same was true for younger boys
in the study of Cleland et al. (2010), but not for
older boys or for girls. Furthermore, Reimers
et al. (2018) found that the presence of other,
active children at playgrounds was the main
explanatory variable for outdoor play, but that
the presence of boys was a negative predictor
for girls playing outside.
Seven qualitative studies investigated the
role of other children in the neighbourhood.
The social aspects of outdoor play were consid-
ered important by both children and parents,
and the presence of friends was often a reason
to play outside (Burke 2005; Veitch et al. 2006,
2007; Castonguay & Jutras 2009; Brockman et
al. 2011a, 2011b; Horton & Kraftl 2018). In
a study by Veitch et al. (2006), for example,
40 per cent of parents perceived the absence
of neighbours or nearby friends as a nega-
tive influence on their child’s outdoor play.
According to Veitch et al. (2007), children ex-
pressed a strong desire to have someone to play
with. Interestingly, Horton and Kraftl (2018)
found that the social function of playgrounds
differed between neighbourhoods. The play-
ground in a disadvantaged area in their study
was mostly used for ‘sitting and chatting’ with
friends, whereas the playground in an advan-
taged neighbourhood was mostly valued for
family play.
How do neighbourhood factors matter for
different groups? Age and gender – Seven
quantitative studies included individual- level
moderating variables in their models. Three
looked at the combination of age and gender.
For younger boys, Cleland et al. (2010) found that
social factors (presence of siblings, friends or pets)
were positively associated with outdoor play. Aarts
and colleagues (2010) investigated how social and
physical characteristics influenced the outdoor
play of different subgroups. Social cohesion was
positively associated with outdoor play in five of
the six age- gender subgroups, but the impact of
different physical characteristics differed among
the subgroups. In their follow- up study, Aarts et
al. (2012) found that environmental correlates of
outdoor play differed by age and gender. Neither
study, however, clearly distinguished whether
neighbourhood factors mattered more for boys
or girls or for certain age groups.
NEIGHBOURHOOD FACTORS IN CHILDREN’S OUTDOOR PLAY 11
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Three other quantitative studies only looked
at gendered differences. Here too, results were
mixed: two studies reported stronger effects
for girls, one for boys. Page et al. (2010) found
that girls’ outdoor play was positively associ-
ated with their perception of traffic safety but
negatively with experienced nuisance, while no
such effects were found for boys. Furthermore,
Reimers et al. (2018) concluded that the pres-
ence of other active children had only a posi-
tive effect on girls’ outdoor play, but that the
number of boys present on playgrounds was
inversely related to girls’ outdoor play. Wilkie
et al. (2018) found that traffic- related safety
concerns negatively influenced boys’ outdoor
playtime. One study (Handy et al. 2008) looked
at the moderating role of age and found that
outdoor play was positively associated with liv-
ing on a cul- de- sac, but only for children aged
6– 12 (not <6 or 12– 16).
Five qualitative studies considered how
gender was related to neighbourhood con-
text and outdoor play (Karsten 2003; Ferré
et al. 2006; Brockman et al. 2011a, 2011b;
Horton & Kraftl 2018). Several studies noted
differences in use of neighbourhoods and
playgrounds by boys and girls. Brockman et
al. (2011a) showed that boys were more likely
to play in green spaces or on the streets than
girls, who preferred to stay close to their own
homes or play in their own garden. Karsten
(2003) found that playgrounds were di-
vided into separate boys’ and girls’ spaces.
Compared with girls, boys were highly visi-
ble users of public playground space; they
controlled much larger territories during
many more hours. The physical quality of
the playground greatly influenced the gen-
der composition of users. Playgrounds with
very few play objects or in bad condition did
not appeal to girls. Ferré et al. (2006), on
the other hand, indicated that boys and girls
participated in different kinds of activities
in public playgrounds (e.g. boys playing soc-
cer, girls roller- skating), but that the amount
of space they used was about equal. Some
studies suggest that girls are more affected
by social safety concerns. Horton and Kraftl
(2018) found that the outdoor mobilities of
female respondents were more constrained
by parents than those of male peers. Also
Brockman et al. (2011b) found that primarily
female respondents were constrained by the
presence of groups of older children in their
neighbourhoods.
Five qualitative studies looked at age-
related differences with regard to the impact
of neighbourhood factors. In general, older
children were allowed more independence
than younger ones (Veitch et al. 2006, 2007;
Holt et al. 2008; Castonguay & Jutras 2009).
Castonguay and Jutras (2009) showed that
children aged 10– 12 identified parks and
playgrounds as ‘liked places’, whereas chil-
dren of 7– 9 years preferred spaces near an
acquaintance’s home. Parents’ restrictions
also played an important role (Veitch et al.
2006, 2007; Horton & Kraftl 2018). In the ar-
ticle by Horton and Kraftl (2018), younger
respondents perceived parents’ rules as ob-
stacles to outdoor play whereas older respon-
dents cited crime, gangs and drugs. Veitch et
al. (2006) found that younger children (aged
6– 8) commented more on restricted mobility;
many were unable to go anywhere at all in their
neighbourhood without an adult. Some of the
older ones (aged 8– 12) could walk to locations
such as their friend’s house or around the
block. Holt et al. (2008) found that walkabil-
ity of the neighbourhood influenced outdoor
play, especially for older children. Finally, two
studies (Burke 2005; Ferré et al. 2006) showed
that many playgrounds were primarily geared
to younger children, making outdoor play less
attractive for older age groups.
Race and ethnicity – One quantitative study
considered how ethnicity moderates the
impact of the neighbourhood on outdoor play.
Yoon and Lee (2019) found that among white
children, the prevalence of playgrounds and
high- density residential development increased
outdoor play, whereas the prevalence of traffic
accidents decreased it. Among Hispanic
children, neither association was found. For
Hispanic children – but not for white children
outdoor play was positively associated with
the presence of water features but negatively
with the presence of undeveloped areas and
the density of intersections.
Only two qualitative studies investigated eth-
nic or racial differences in outdoor play and
the impact of the neighbourhood (Karsten
2003; Horton & Kraftl 2018). According to
KIRSTEN VISSER & IRINA VAN AALST12
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Horton and Kraftl (2018), bullying affected
outdoor play among ethnic- minority respon-
dents. Moreover, the outdoor mobilities of
female Indian, Pakistani and Somali respon-
dents were constrained by a wide range of
factors, particularly parents’ rules. According
to Karsten (2003), girls with Turkish and
Moroccan backgrounds in Amsterdam were
underrepresented at playgrounds.
CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION
This review provides insight into the urban
neighbourhood factors that influence chil-
dren’s outdoor play. While that context clearly
matters, studies differ on which elements mat-
ter most.
Regarding physical factors, the quantita-
tive studies highlight the importance of traffic
safety (88% found at least one positive asso-
ciation), followed by the presence of green
space (50%). Yet the presence of formal
playgrounds was less important: only 29 per
cent of the studies that included this variable
found that it contributed to more outdoor
play. These findings suggest that creating play-
friendly neighbourhoods is likely to be more
effective than building formal playgrounds.
As found by Veitch et al. (2007), children care
little about elaborate equipment or facilities
as long as they have a place where they can
safely play with their friends. The importance
of green and safe spaces was confirmed by
the qualitative studies. Interestingly, while the
quantitative studies showed mixed results on
the importance of formal playgrounds, many
qualitative studies focused on what made play-
grounds attractive. They showed that mainte-
nance and design made playgrounds attractive
for outdoor play as well as suitable for differ-
ent ages and genders. Moreover, concerns and
preferences about the design of the ideal play-
ground differed between children and adults.
Whereas parents prioritized safety (Horton
& Kraftl 2018), children desired enjoyment
and risk (Ferré et al. 2006). Given the contra-
dictory results regarding the importance of
formal playgrounds, the field could benefit
from future research that delves deeper into
the importance of formal versus informal
opportunities.
Regarding the social neighbourhood con-
text, all quantitative studies that included
social context and the presence of other chil-
dren found positive associations with outdoor
play. The results for social safety were mixed:
four (67%) found at least one positive associ-
ation, while one found none (Bringolf- Isler et
al. 2010) and another a negative association
(Wilkie et al. 2018). The negative association
might reflect the fact that parents of children
who play outdoors are more aware of the safety
issues in their neighbourhood. The qualita-
tive studies confirmed the importance of all
three social factors: social safety, social cohe-
sion and the presence of other children. What
stood out from these studies is that parents’
safety concerns restricted children’s free play.
These restrictions were mainly the result of the
fear of being labelled a bad parent and were
more prominent in low- socio- economic- status
neighbourhoods.
Roughly half of the quantitative studies in-
cluded individual- level moderating variables.
Most focused on age and gender differences,
but no clear patterns emerged. Patterns did
emerge in qualitative studies: as children get
older, their parents allow them more indepen-
dence, with boys granted more independence.
Girls, particularly those with a migration back-
ground, experienced more barriers, primarily
related to social safety concerns. Individual-
level socio- economic status and ethnic back-
ground were hardly considered, which makes
this an interesting avenue for future research.
Towards a multi- dimensional understanding of
outdoor play – The majority of the reviewed
studies approached outdoor play from a health
perspective. Indeed, many used ‘time spent
outdoors’ or ‘level of physical activity’ as their
main outcome of interest. However, there has
been limited interest in the social functions
of play. How do playgrounds or informal play
opportunities facilitate interaction between
neighbourhood peers and their parents? How
can playgrounds contribute to social cohesion
and social safety in neighbourhoods?
Public spaces provide opportunities for in-
teraction (Smoyer- Tomic et al. 2004; Stevens
2004). The presence of a range of people
could stimulate the emergence of activities and
NEIGHBOURHOOD FACTORS IN CHILDREN’S OUTDOOR PLAY 13
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
interactions, encouraging mutual understand-
ing between ethnically diverse groups in neigh-
bourhoods and society as a whole (Wise &
Noble 2016). Furthermore, Ferré et al. (2006)
regard playgrounds as places for observing,
questioning and challenging traditional gen-
der roles. At the same time, playgrounds could
also be sites of conflict and tension between
different groups of children (Karsten & Pel
2000; Karsten 2003). We therefore recommend
research that goes beyond a health focus to in-
vestigate the social dimensions of outdoor play.
Understanding outdoor play in a social-
ecological context – Nine studies examined
the impact of neighbourhood characteristics
on playing outdoors exclusively from parent’s
perspectives and ten exclusively from children’s
perspectives. Only four studies included both
parent and child perspectives. This is a major
shortcoming, as some qualitative studies
revealed differences between children’s and
parents’ perceptions of the neighbourhood
and their ideas about independent outdoor
play. Children like to play without supervision
to feel a sense of freedom (Veitch et al. 2007;
Brockman et al. 2011b), while parents are
concerned about children’s safety. Children’s
outdoor play should therefore be seen as the
outcome of an interplay between characteristics
of the child, parent and neighbourhood
(Bronfenbrenner 1979; Lee et al. 2015).
Several characteristics influence outdoor play,
ranging from proximal to distal factors, and
there are reciprocal relationships between
factors at different levels. Children’s personal
characteristics (age, gender, competence)
influence their opportunities for outdoor play,
but parents also have a direct influence and
may limit or stimulate the ways in which they
can engage in outdoor play. Both the child
and the parent are likely to be influenced
by neighbourhood factors such as safety, the
availability of playgrounds and presence of
other children, and the experiences of the
neighbourhood might differ between children
and their parents (Prout & James 1990).
Future research on children’s outdoor play
should therefore incorporate the complex
interaction induced by this difference between
children and their parents. Merely assessing
safety (whether objectively or subjectively),
for example, may not be sufficient for
understanding parents’ restrictions on their
children’s play. It is important to also consider
how safety concerns and outdoor play are being
negotiated between children and parents,
based on their different experiences of the
neighbourhood and the child’s competence.
Incorporating the heterogeneity of neighbour-
hood experiences – Research emphasizes
that the neighbourhood does not affect all
individuals in the same way (Sharkey & Faber
2014). However, the reviewed papers give
little attention to individual- level moderators;
their inclusion is limited to age and gender
differences, both in quantitative and qualitative
studies. Only three papers considered ethnic
background, and none investigated the
impact of individual socio- economic status
(SES). But some qualitative studies compared
neighbourhoods with a low, medium and high
SES (Veitch et al. 2006, 2007; Witten et al. 2013;
Horton & Kraftl 2018) or were focused on a
poor neighbourhood (Castonguay & Jutras
2009). Because only a few studies investigated
heterogeneity in effects, it remains unclear how
the neighbourhood context matters for different
groups. We should work towards developing
theory and collecting evidence on how
different features of neighbourhoods matter
and gain insight into differential exposure and
vulnerability to these contexts. To this end, data
collection should be guided by insights into the
interactions of children and their parents with
different neighbourhood contexts and their
experiences of these contexts.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS – This study was
made possible by a grant from the focus area
Sport and Society, Utrecht University. We thank
Robin Rauws for her assistance in conducting
the systematic review.
REFERENCES
REVIEWED ARTICLES
A, M.J., W. W- V, H.A. V O, I.A. V
D G & A.J. S (2010), Environmental
KIRSTEN VISSER & IRINA VAN AALST14
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Determinants of Outdoor Play in Children:
A Large- Scale Cross- Sectional Study. American
Journal of Preventive Medicine 39, pp. 212– 219.
A, M.J., S.I. D V, H.A. V O & A.J.
S (2012), Outdoor Play Among Children
in Relation to Neighborhood Characteristics:
A Cross- Sectional Neighborhood Observation
Study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition
and Physical Activity 9, pp. 98– 109.
B, K. & A. R. (2019), Parental cor-
relates of outdoor play in boys and girls aged 0
to 12: A systematic review. International Journal
of Environmental Research and Public Health 16(2),
pp. 190.
B- I, B., L. G, U. M, N. R,
F.H. S & C. B- F
(2010), Built Environment, Parents’ Perception,
and Children’s Vigorous Outdoor Play. Preventive
Medicine 50, pp. 251– 256.
B, R., K.R. F & R. J (2011a), What
is the Meaning and Nature of Active Play for
Today’s Children in the UK? International Journal
of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 8, pp. 15.
B, R., R. J & K.R. F (2011b),
Children’s Active Play: Self- Reported Motivators,
Barriers and Facilitators. BMC Public Health 11,
pp. 461– 468.
B, C. (2005), “Play in Focus”: Children
Researching Their Own Spaces and Places for
Play. Children, Youth and Environments 15(1),
pp. 27– 53.
C, G. & S. J (2009), Children’s
Appreciation of Outdoor Places in a Poor
Neighborhood. Journal of Environmental Psychology
29(1), pp. 101– 109.
C, V., A. T, J. S, C. H,
L.A. B & D. C (2010), Predictors of
Time Spent Outdoors Among Children: 5- Year
Longitudinal Findings. Journal of Epidemiology &
Community Health 64, pp. 400– 406.
F, G., R. M, R. B, C. F &
M. S (2015), Children’s Outdoor Playtime,
Physical Activity, and Parental Perceptions of
the Neighbourhood Environment. International
Journal of Play 4, pp. 84– 97.
F, M.B., A.O. G & M.P. F (2006),
Children and Playgrounds in Mediterranean
Cities. Children’s Geographies 4, pp. 173– 183.
H, S., X. C & P. M (2008),
Neighborhood Design and Children’s Outdoor
Play: Evidence from Northern California. Children
Youth and Environments 18, pp. 160– 179.
H, N.L., J.C. S, Z.L. S & N. C
(2008), Neighborhood and Developmental
Differences in Children’s Perceptions of
Opportunities for Play and Physical Activity. Health
& Place 14, pp. 2– 14.
H, J. & P. K (2018), Three Playgrounds:
Researching the Multiple Geographies of
Children’s Outdoor Play. Environment and Planning
A: Economy and Space 50, pp. 214– 235.
K, L. (2003), Children’s Use of Public Space:
The Gendered World of the Playground. Childhood
10(4), pp. 457– 473.
L, C.A. & N. T (2017),
Associations Between Parental and Friend Social
Support and Children’s Physical Activity and
Time Spent Outside Playing. International Journal
of Pediatrics 2017, pp. 1– 11.
P, A.S., A.R. C, P. G & R. J (2010),
Independent Mobility, Perceptions of the Built
Environment and Children’s Participation in
Play, Active Travel and Structured Exercise and
Sport: The PEACH Project. International Journal of
Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 7, pp. 17.
R, A., S. S, Y. D & G. K
(2018), Physical Activity and Outdoor Play of
Children in Public Playgrounds— Do Gender and
Social Environment Matter? International Journal
of Environmental Research and Public Health 15,
pp. 1356.
S- M, E., L. E- C, S. S,
Z. T, J. T, D. L & R.
J (2018), “In My Day…”- Parents’ Views on
Children’s Physical Activity and Screen Viewing
in Relation to Their Own Childhood. International
Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
15, pp. 2547.
V, J., S. B, K. B & J. S (2006),
Where Do Children Usually Play? A Qualitative
Study of Parents’ Perceptions of Influences on
Children’s Active Free- Play. Health & Place 12,
pp. 383– 393.
V, J., J. S & K. B (2007), Children’s
Perceptions of the Use of Public Open Spaces
for Active Free- Play. Children’s Geographies 5, pp.
409– 422.
V, J., J. S & K. B (2008), Children’s
Active Free Play in Local Neighborhoods: A
Behavioral Mapping Study. Health Education
Research 23, pp. 870– 879.
V, J., J. S & K. B (2010), Individual,
Social and Physical Environmental Correlates of
Children’s Active Free- Play: A Cross- Sectional
NEIGHBOURHOOD FACTORS IN CHILDREN’S OUTDOOR PLAY 15
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition
and Physical Activity 7, pp. 11.
W, H.J., M. S, F.B. G, S.P.
C & P.T. K (2018), The Home
Electronic Media Environment and Parental
Safety Concerns: Relationships With Outdoor
Time After School and Over the Weekend Among
9– 11 Year Old Children. BMC Public Health 18,
pp. 456.
W, K., R. K, P. C, L. A
& N. T’ (2013), New Zealand Parents’
Understandings of the Intergenerational Decline
in Children’s Independent Outdoor Play and
Active Travel. Children’s Geographies 11, pp.
215– 229.
Y, J. & C. L (2019), Neighborhood Outdoor
Play of White and Non- White Hispanic Children:
Cultural Differences and Environmental
Disparities. Landscape and Urban Planning 187,
pp. 11– 22.
OTHER REFERENCES
B, W. & L. K (2015), De opmars
van het stadsgezin. In: F. Van Dam, ed., De stad:
magneet, roltrap en spons, pp. 118– 127. Den Haag:
PBL.
B, S.A., N. Y, A.M. W
& P. K (2012), Playground Accessibility
and Neighbourhood Social Interaction Among
Parents. Social Indicators Research 108, pp. 199– 213.
B, U. (1979), The Ecology of Human
Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press.
C, R. (2004), An Investigation of the Status
of Outdoor Play. Contemporary Issues in Early
Childhood 5, pp. 68– 80.
H, G.P. & J.K. F (2014), Narrative,
Meta- Analytic, and Systematic Reviews: What are
the Differences and Why Do They Matter? Journal
of Organizational Behavior 35, pp. S1– S5.
H, S.L. & H. P- W (2014),
Enriching Children, Institutionalizing Childhood?
Geographies of Play, Extracurricular Activities,
and Parenting in England. Annals of the Association
of American Geographers 104, pp. 613– 627.
H, S.L. & G. V (2000), Children’s
Geographies: Playing, Living, Learning. London:
Routledge.
J B (2018), Onderzoek Buitenspelen 2018,
Available at <https://jantjebeton.nl/uploads/files/
Onderzoek%20Buitenspelen%202018%20-%20
Jantje%20Beton.pdf>. Accessed on 1 December
2021.
K, L. (2005), It All Used To Be Better?
Different Generations on Continuity and Change
in Urban Children’s Daily Use of Space. Children’s
Geographies 3, pp. 275– 290.
K, L. & E. P (2000), Skateboarders
Exploring Urban Public Space: Ollies, Obstacles
and Conflicts. Journal of Housing and the Built
Environment 15, pp. 327– 340.
K, S., M. B & S. D- R (2020),
The Art of Crafting a Systematic Literature Review
in Entrepreneurship Research. International
Entrepreneurship and Management Journal 16, pp.
1023– 1042.
L, H., K.A. T, A.M. C, L. S,
J.C. S & N.L. H (2015), A Meta- Study
of Qualitative Research Examining Determinants
of Children’s Independent Active Free Play.
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and
Physical Activity 12, pp. 1– 12.
L, A., D.G. A, J. T, C. M,
P.C. G, J.P. I, M. C, P.J.
D, J. K & D. M (2009),
The PRISMA Statement for Reporting Systematic
Reviews and Meta- Analyses of Studies That
Evaluate Health Care Interventions: Explanation
and Elaboration. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 62,
pp. e1– e34.
L, J. (2014), Is There Room for Families in
the Inner City? Life- Stage Blenders Challenging
Planning. Housing Studies 29, pp. 843– 861.
MK, J.H. (2000), The Geography of
Children: An Annotated Bibliography. Childhood
7, pp. 359– 387.
O, J.M., K.E. A, I.M. B & L.T.
C (2015), Twenty Years of Neighborhood
Effect Research: An Assessment. Current
Epidemiology Reports 2, pp. 80– 87.
P, R. (2006), Paranoid Parenting? Rematerializing
Risk and Fear for Children. Social & Cultural
Geography 7, pp. 221– 243.
P, M. & H. R (2006), Systematic
Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide.
Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
P, A. & A. J (1990), A New Paradigm
for the Sociology of Childhood? Provenance,
KIRSTEN VISSER & IRINA VAN AALST16
© 2021 The Authors. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Dutch
Geographical Society / Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Promise and Problems. In: A. James & A. Prout,
eds., Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood:
Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of
Childhood, pp. 7– 34. London: Falmer Press.
P, S.R., K.C. N, M.S. I, J.C. S,
V. C, Z. R & N.L. H (2019), An
Intergenerational Qualitative Study of the Good
Parenting Ideal and Active Free Play During
Middle Childhood. Children’s Geographies 17,
pp. 266– 277.
P, N. & S. T (2016), Young Peoples Play With
Urban Public Space: Geographies of Hanging
Out. In: B. Evans, J. Horton & T. Skelton, eds.,
Geographies of Children and Young People, Volume 9:
Play, Recreation, Health and Well Being, pp. 193– 210.
Singapore: Springer.
R, B. (2006), Children in the Compact City:
Fairfield as a Suburban Case Study. Sydney: Australian
Research Alliance for Children and Youth.
S, P. & J.W. F (2014), Where, When,
Why, and For Whom Do Residential Contexts
Matter? Moving Away From the Dichotomous
Understanding of Neighborhood Effects. Annual
Review of Sociology 40, pp. 559– 579.
S, M. & E. K (2009), Changes in Children’s
Nature- Based Experiences Near Home: From
Spontaneous Play to Adult- Controlled, Planned
and Organised Activities. Children’s Geographies 7,
pp. 339– 354.
S, M., V. G & L. O’B (2016),
How to Engage Children With Nature: Why Not
Just Let Them Play? Children’s Geographies 14,
pp. 527– 540.
S- T, K.E., J.N. H & M.J. H
(2004), Spatial Accessibility and Equity of
Playgrounds in Edmonton, Canada. Canadian
Geographer/Le Géographe Canadien 48, pp. 287– 302.
S, H. & R.S. B (2002), Parental
Permission for Children’s Independent Outdoor
Activities: Implications for Injury Prevention. The
European Journal of Public Health 12, pp. 104– 109.
S, Q. (2004), Urban Escapades: Play in
Melbourne’s Public Spaces. In: L. Lees, ed.,
The Emancipatory City? Paradoxes and Possibilities,
pp. 139– 157. London: Sage Publications.
T, D., D. D & P. S (2003),
Towards a Methodology for Developing Evidence-
Informed Management Knowledge by Means of
Systematic Review. British Journal of Management
14, pp. 207– 222.
V, G. & J. MK (1997), Children’s
Outdoor Play: Exploring Parental Concerns
About Children’s Safety and the Changing Nature
of Childhood. Geoforum 28, pp. 219– 235.
W, A. & G. N (2016), Conviviality: an
Orientation. Journal of Intercultural Studies 37,
pp. 423– 431.
W, H.E. & E. G (2015), Decreasing
Experiences of Home Range, Outdoor Spaces,
Activities and Companions: Changes Across
Three Generations in Sheffield in North England.
Children’s Geographies 13, pp. 677– 691.
... Previous work on urban environments and child movement behaviors, including OFP, has often focused on middle childhood and youth, as parental supervision decreases and independent mobility increases [17]. Several recent reviews examined correlates of outdoor play, time, or physical activity [18][19][20][21], considering broader age ranges [18][19][20], older ages [21], or exclusively qualitative [18] or quantitative evidence [19,20,22]. Lambert et al. [19] found moderate evidence that lower traffic volumes, yard access, and neighborhood greenness was associated with outdoor time in early to midchildhood and adolescence. ...
... Previous work on urban environments and child movement behaviors, including OFP, has often focused on middle childhood and youth, as parental supervision decreases and independent mobility increases [17]. Several recent reviews examined correlates of outdoor play, time, or physical activity [18][19][20][21], considering broader age ranges [18][19][20], older ages [21], or exclusively qualitative [18] or quantitative evidence [19,20,22]. Lambert et al. [19] found moderate evidence that lower traffic volumes, yard access, and neighborhood greenness was associated with outdoor time in early to midchildhood and adolescence. ...
... Neighborhood characteristics, including learning and recreation destinations, play space, playgrounds, yards, sidewalks, roundabouts, and low traffic-volume roads were associated with more, and walkability, traffic crash density, and intersections with less outdoor play or time [20]. In a review including 7-14 year-olds, traffic safety, social safety, social norms, cohesion, and playmates, parks and greenspace were correlated with outdoor play [21]. The magnitude and direction of effects on child movement behaviors have been shown to vary by age. ...
Article
Urban environments shape early childhood exposures, experiences, and health behaviors, including outdoor free play, influencing the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children. We examined evidence for urban or suburban built environment influences on outdoor free play in 0–6-year-olds, considering potential differences across gender, culture, and geography. We systematically searched seven literature databases for relevant qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies: of 5740 unique studies, 53 met inclusion criteria. We assessed methodological quality and thematically synthesized findings from included studies. Three broad themes, features of spaces for play, routes, and social factors intersected to influence the availability, accessibility, and acceptability of neighborhoods for young children’s outdoor free play across diverse cultural and geographic contexts. Proximity to formal or informal space for play, protection from traffic, pedestrian envi- ronment, green and natural environments, and opportunity for social connection supported outdoor free play. Family and community social context influenced perceptions of and use of space; however, we did not find consistent, gendered differences in built environment correlates of outdoor free play. Across diverse contexts, playable neighborhoods for young children provided nearby space for play, engaging routes protected from traffic and facilitated frequent interaction between people, nature, and structures.
Thesis
Doctoral dissertation “Early Development of Emotional Regulation in Play” provides a detailed discussion and demonstration, at the level of micro-analysis, based on the cultural-historical developmental theory, that children’s emotional self-regulation is constructed from collective to individual forms. The chosen elements of the unit of observation and analysis make it possible to specify the characteristics of play activities collectively modelled by adults and gradually applied in children’s independent play. The work analyses the individual process of children’s emotional involvement in play and discusses the development of emotional regulation, which originates in play activities. The core of play is the constant change of emotional reactions (waves). During play, each player seeks to evoke and regulate their own and the other player’s emotional responses through their role or individual actions. Players infect each other with emotions and reach an emotional peak together, minimising/substituting it through fictitious play events or actions. The experimental genetic method allows to record gradual process of emotional involvement from the very beginning, when the child is not yet able to participate independently in joint activities, towards shared involvement with (the help of) an adult, to increasingly independent participation in complex, dramatic situations of play with other children that require regulation of emotions and mutual coordination. The practical significance of the research is linked to pedagogical practice. Play activities should be co-constructed between adults and children as a joint model of optimal child development and learning.
Article
Full-text available
Systematic literature reviews are an increasingly used review methodology to synthesize the existing body of literature in a field. However, editors complain about a high number of desk rejections because of a lack in quality. Poorly developed review articles are not published because of a perceived lack of contribution to the field. Our article supports authors of standalone papers and graduate students in the Entrepreneurship domain to write contribution-focused systematic reviews e.g. by providing a concrete guideline. Our article analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of a systematic literature review and how they can be overcome. Furthermore, we provide a combined list of highly ranked journals in the Entrepreneurship domain as a basis for quality appraisal. Finally, this article builds a scenario for the future of the systematic literature review methodology and shows how technological improvements have changed this methodology and what can be achieved in the future.
Article
Full-text available
Outdoor play is one major source of physical activity (PA) in children. In particular, parents act as gatekeepers, because they can enable their children's outdoor play. This systematic review aims to provide an overview of parental correlates of outdoor play. A systematic literature research of six electronic databases (ERIC, PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO, PubMed/Medline, SCOPUS, and Web of Science Core Collection) was conducted with previously defined search terms, focusing on children 0-12 years old. In total, 1719 potentially publications were screened based on eligibility criteria. Included studies were scored for overall study quality. Findings were summarized using a semi-quantitative method. Twenty-one peer-reviewed publications which examined the relationship of parental correlates and outdoor play were included. Overall, five parental correlates were associated with children's amount of outdoor play: mothers' ethnicity, mothers' employment status, parents' education level, the importance parents assign to outdoor play, and perceived social cohesion in the neighborhood. Merely four studies reported sex/gender-stratified results. In summary, only parents' encouragement/support provided evidence for girls' amount of outdoor play. The findings are considered to be of public health relevance for developing intervention programs to increase outdoor play and for improving child's health. More research, especially considering sex/gender of the child, is required.
Article
Full-text available
Physical activity and screen viewing are associated with cardio-metabolic risk factors, psychological wellbeing, and academic performance among children. Across the last generation, children’s physical activity and screen viewing behaviours have changed, coinciding with changes to the home and neighbourhood environment. This study aimed to qualitatively explore parents’ views on their 8–9-year-old child’s childhood and how this compares to experiences from their own childhood, with a specific focus on physical activity and screen viewing behaviours. Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 51 parents (mean age = 41.2 years, range 31.5 to 51.5 years), between July and October 2016. Inductive and deductive content analyses were used to explore parents’ perceptions of their child’s physical activity and screen viewing behaviours in comparison to their own childhood behaviours. Interview data revealed that compared to the relative freedom they recalled as children, parents restrict their children’s independent mobility and outdoor play due to concerns about safety. Despite their children having greater access to structured activities than they did as children, parents feel their children are “missing out,” and perceived their own childhood as better with regards to maximising independent and outdoor play and limiting screen viewing. Innovative strategies are needed to change the social norms surrounding children’s independent mobility and outdoor play.
Article
Full-text available
Background: Few studies have delved into the relationship of the social environment with children’s physical activity and outdoor play in public playgrounds by considering gender differences. The aim of the present study was to examine gender differences and the relationship of the social environment with children’s physical activity and outdoor play in public playgrounds. Methods: A quantitative, observational study was conducted at ten playgrounds in one district of a middle-sized town in Germany. The social environment, physical activity levels, and outdoor play were measured using a modified version of the System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth. Results: In total, 266 observations of children (117 girls/149 boys) between four and 12 years old were used in this analysis. Significant gender differences were found in relation to activity types, but not in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). The presence of active children was the main explanatory variable for MVPA. In the models stratified by gender, the presence of opposite-sex children was a significant negative predictor of MVPA in girls but not in boys. Conclusions: The presence of active children contributes to children’s physical activity levels in public playgrounds. Girls’ physical activity seems to be suppressed in the presence of boys.
Article
Full-text available
Background: Time spent outdoors is associated with higher physical activity levels among children, yet it may be threatened by parental safety concerns and the attraction of indoor sedentary pursuits. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationships between these factors and outdoor time during children's discretionary periods (i.e., after school and over the weekend). Methods: Data from 462 children aged 9-11 years old were analysed using generalised linear mixed models. The odds of spending > 1 h outdoors after school, and > 2 h outdoors on a weekend were computed, according to demographic variables, screen-based behaviours, media access, and parental safety concerns. Interactions with sex and socioeconomic status (SES) were explored. Results: Boys, low SES participants, and children who played on their computer for < 2 h on a school day had higher odds of spending > 1 h outside after school than girls, high SES children and those playing on a computer for ≥2 h, respectively. Counterintuitive results were found for access to media devices and crime-related safety concerns as both of these were positively associated with time spent outdoors after school. A significant interaction for traffic-related concerns*sex was found; higher road safety concerns were associated with lower odds of outdoor time after school in boys only. Age was associated with weekend outdoor time, which interacted with sex and SES; older children were more likely to spend > 2 h outside on weekends but this was only significant among girls and high SES participants. Conclusions: Our results suggest that specific groups of children are less likely to spend their free time outside, and it would seem that only prolonged recreational computer use has a negative association with children's outdoor time after school. Further research is needed to explore potential underlying mechanisms, and parental safety concerns in more detail.
Article
Full-text available
The purpose of this study was to examine the structural validity of a parent and a child questionnaire that assessed parental and friends’ influences on children’s physical activity and investigate the associations between the derived factors, physical activity, and time spent outside. Children ( N=154 , mean age = 11.7) and 144 of their parents completed questionnaires assessing parental and friends’ influences on children’s physical activity. Children wore a pedometer for six days. Exploratory factor analyses revealed four factors for the parental and five for the child’s questionnaire that explained 66.71% and 63.85% of the variance, respectively. Five factors were significantly associated with physical activity and five significantly associated with time spent outside. Higher correlations were revealed between “general friend support,” “friends’ activity norms,” and physical activity ( r=0.343 and 0.333 resp., p<0.001 ) and between “general friend support” and time spent outside ( r=0.460 , p<0.001 ). Obtaining information relating to parental and friends’ influences on physical activity from both parents and children may provide a more complete picture of influences. Parents and friends seem to influence children’s physical activity behavior and time spent outside, but friends’ influences may have a stronger impact on children’s behaviors.
Article
This study addressed the question: How and why has the good parenting ideal changed in relation to active free play (AFP) during middle childhood? Twenty-eight middle class and predominantly white adults (14 grandparent-parent dyads) completed individual semi-structured interviews. Data were subjected to a thematic analysis. Two themes (changing expectations for parental involvement in children's lives and increasing expectations to involve children in structured activities) depicted how the good parenting ideal has changed. A further two themes (news media influence on perceptions of safety and concerns about being judged on social media) explained some of the reasons why the good parenting ideal has changed. Perceived needs for parental involvement, supervision, and organized activities appear to contradict the notion of active free play. It may be useful to develop initiatives that are consistent with the good parenting ideal, and to examine parents’ use of traditional and social media in future AFP research.
Article
This paper argues for more careful, combinative approaches to children’s outdoor play that can better apprehend the social-material, political and spatial constitution of children’s play with/in diverse urban communities. Much extant scholarship on play starts either from macro-scale generalisations about the ‘state’ of children’s play, or from micro-scale analyses of the performances, materialities and feelings that constitute play. Our approach in this paper is to both combine these approaches and, more significantly, to focus elsewhere. Drawing on a large-scale, multi-method study of children’s outdoor play in three London communities, we start our analyses with three ostensibly similar, and geographically-proximate playgrounds. Through detailed attention to children’s narratives about these playgrounds, we assert the value of a comparative approach that demonstrates how the three playgrounds articulated both overlapping and strikingly divergent social-political processes in each community. Children’s narratives ranged from humorous and affirmative accounts of relaxation, fun, friendship and wildfowl, to haunting urban myths that make manifest community anxieties about ‘strangers’, sexual violence and intravenous drug use, to troubling, stinging critiques of how playgrounds evinced longstanding concerns about social-political marginalisation. The paper opens out a number of important avenues for future scholarship on play, specifically, and for research in children’s geographies and childhood studies more generally. In particular, it emphasises the value of a comparative approach to outdoor play that pays detailed attention to the enduring role of myths and rumours in the co-constitution of playspaces with, in and as the social-political lives of communities.