Being outdoors is one of the strongest correlates of physical activity in children. Playgrounds are spaces especially designed to enable and foster physical activity in children. This study aimed to analyze the relationship between the spatial features of public playgrounds and the usage and physical activity levels of children playing in them.
Subjects and methods
A quantitative, observational study was conducted of ten playgrounds in one district of a middle-sized town in Germany. Playground spatial features were captured using an audit instrument and the playground manual of the town. Playground usage and physical activity levels of children were assessed using a modified version of the System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth. Negative binomial models were used to analyze the count data.
The number of children using the playgrounds and the number of children actively playing in them were higher in those with more varied facilities and without naturalness. Girls played more actively in playgrounds without multi-purpose areas. Cleanliness, esthetics, play facility quality, division of functional areas and playground size were not related to any outcome variable.
Playground spatial features are related to playground usage and activity levels of the children in the playgrounds. Playgrounds should offer a wide variety of play facilities and provide spaces for diverse play activities to respond to the needs of large numbers of different children and to provide activity-friendly areas enabling their healthy development.