Playing outdoors: What do children do, where and with whom?


Abstract views: 1313 / PDF downloads: 562

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.37291/2717638X.202343285

Keywords:

Outdoor play, Play-friendly cities, Public space, Play spaces, Children’s behavior

Abstract

There is an increasing interest in outdoor play, both in research and in policy. However, in (re)designing, planning and managing the public space, there is still limited attention for children’s actual playing behavior. A lot of urban planning decisions are based on adults’ perceptions of children’s playing behavior and focus on formal play spaces, rather than on their actual behavior and on other, more informal, play places children might also use. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore where children play outdoors, with whom and what kind of activities they are performing there. Between February 2022 and March 2023 1,127 – mainly primary school - children were systematically observed after school in three post-war residential districts in three cities in The Netherlands. The majority of the children were between 5-8 years old (50%). Above the age of 8 years, substantially more boys (70%) than girls (30%) were playing outdoors. Most of the children (79%) were playing with other children, 8% were playing alone. The playground was the most popular play space (36% of the observed children were playing there), followed by public sports fields (14%) and sidewalks (13%). With respect to the type of activities, relaxing (21%) was the most common activity, followed by ball sports (14%), climbing or hanging (11%), swinging (10%), and riding on wheels (9%). This study showed differences in play behavior by gender, age, district and play space and stress the need for a broader definition of play, and for focusing on formal as well as informal play spaces.

References

Bouwmeester, H. (2006). Spelen met ruimte: Handboek gemeentelijk speelruimtebeleid [Playing with space: Municipal play space policy handbook]. Jantje Beton, VNG en NUSO.

Boxberger, K., & Reimers, A.K. (2019). Parental correlates of outdoor play in boys and girls aged 0 to 12 - a systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(2), 1-19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16020190

Brown, B., Mackettb, R., Gong, Y., Kitazawac, K., & Paskins, J. (2008). Gender differences in children’s pathways to independent mobility. Children's Geographies, 6(4), 385-401. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14733280802338080

Brussoni, M., Lin, Y., Hanc, C., Janssend, I., Schuurmane, N., Boyesd, R., Swanlunde, D., & Mâssef, L.C. (2020) A qualitative investigation of unsupervised outdoor activities for 10- to 13- year-old children: “I like adventuring but I don't like adventuring without being careful”. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 70, 101460. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2020.101460

Cele, S,. & Burgt, D. van der (2015). Participation, consultation, confusion: professionals' understandings of children's participation in physical planning. Children's Geographies, 13(1), 14-29. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2013.827873

Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek [Statistics Netherlands]. (2022). Statline - kerncijfers wijken en buurten 2021 [Data set]. https://opendata.cbs.nl/statline

Churchman, A. (2003). Is there a place for children in the city? Journal of Urban Design, 8(2), 99-111. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13574800306482

Cole-Hamilton, I., Harrop, A., & Street, C. (2002). The value of children’s play and play provision: A systematic review of the literature. New Policy Institute.

Corkery, L., & Bishop, K. (2020). The power of process: shaping our public domains with young people. In Loebach, J., Little, S., Cox, A., & Owens, P.E. (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of designing public spaces for young people: processes, practices and policies for youth inclusion (pp. 150-165). Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429505614-13

De Visscher, S. (2008). De sociaal-pedagogische betekenis van de woonomgeving [The socio-pedagogical significance of the living environment]. [Doctoral dissertation, Universiteit Gent].

De Vries, S., & Veenendaal, W. van (2012). Belang van buitenspelen. Literatuurstudie naar de gezondheidswaarde, de sociale en de economische waarde [Importance of playing outside. Literature study into the health value, the social and the economic value]. Lichamelijke Opvoeding, 100(4), 37-39.

De Vries, S., Slinger, J., Schokker, D.F., Graham, J.M.A., & Pierik, F.H. (2010). Beweegvriendelijke stadswijken voor kinderen: Resultaten van een quasi-experimenteel onderzoek [Activity-friendly urban neighborhoods for children: Results of a quasi-experimental study]. TNO.

Derr, V., Chawla, L., & Mintzer, M. (2018). Placemaking with children and youth: Participatory practices for planning sustainable communities. New Village Press.

Dyment, J., & O'Connell, T.S. (2013). The impact of playground design on play choices and behaviors of pre-school children. Children's Geographies, 11(3), 263-280. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2013.812272

Eelderink, M. (2021). Handboek participatief actieonderzoek: Samen bouwen aan een betere wereld [Participatory action research handbook: Building a better world together]. Uitgeverij SWP. DOI: https://doi.org/10.36254/978-90-8560-151-7

Frost, J.L. (1992). Play and playscapes: Instructor’s guide. Delmar Publishers.

Gehl, J., & Svarre, B. (2013). How to study public life. Island Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5822/978-1-61091-525-0

Gill, T. (2021). Urban playground: How child-friendly planning and design can save cities. RIBA Publishing. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003108658

Gray, C., Gibbons, R., Larouche, R., Sandseter, E.B., Bienenstock, A., Brussoni, M., Chabot, G., Herrington, S., Janssen, I., Pickett, W., Power, M., Stanger, N., Sampson, M., & Tremblay, M.S. (2015). What is the relationship between outdoor time and physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and physical fitness in children? A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(6), 6455-6474. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120606455

Gray, P. (2013). Definitions of play. Scholarpedia, 8(7), 30578. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4249/scholarpedia.30578

Gromada, A., Rees, G., & Chzhen, Y. (2020). Innocenti report card –6 - worlds of influence; understanding what shapes child well-being in rich countries. UNICEF Office of Research.

Hart, R. (1979). Children’s experience of place. Irvington publishers.

Helleman, G. (2018, July 11). Playable cities: A model and a toolkit. Blog Urban Springtime. https://urbanspringtime.blogspot.com/playablecities

Helleman, G. (2021, December 7). Buitenspelen: Wie, waar en wat? [Playing outdoors: Who, where, and what?]. Blog Stadslente. https://stadslente.blogspot.com/2021/12/buitenspelen-wie-waar-en-wat.html

Helleman, G. (2022, June 8). Girls and outdoor play: Looking for more equality and equity. Blog Urban Springtime. https://urbanspringtime.blogspot.com/2022/05/girls-in-public-space.html

Helleman, G., & Visscher, S. de (2022). Op zoek naar nieuwe verbindingen tussen kind en stad [Reconnecting child and city]. Ruimte & Maatschappij, 13(4), 49-69.

Hughes, B. (1996). A playworker’s taxonomy of play types. PLAYLINK.

Hyndman, B., & Chancellor, B. (2015). Engaging children in activities beyond the classroom walls: A social–ecological exploration of Australian primary school children’s enjoyment of school play activities. Journal of Playwork Practice, 2(2), 117–141. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/205316215X14454218579212

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 169-182. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/0272-4944(95)90001-2

Karsten, L. (2003). Children’s use of public space: The gendered world of the playground. Childhood, 10(4), 457-473. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568203104005 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568203104005

Karsten, L., & Felder, N. (2016). De nieuwe generatie stadskinderen: Ruimte maken voor opgroeien [The new generation city children: Making space for growing up]. nai010 uitgevers.

Korpela, K., Kyttä, M., & Hartig, T. (2002). Restorative experience, self-regulation, and children’s place preferences. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22(4), 387-398. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1006/jevp.2002.0277

Kyttä, M. (2002). Affordances of children’s environments in the context of cities, small towns, suburbs and rural villages in Finland and Belarus. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22(1), 109-123. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1006/jevp.2001.0249

Larson, L.R., Green, G.T., & Cordell, H.K. (2011). Children’s time outdoors results and implications of the national kids survey. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 29(1), 1-20.

Lester, S., & Russell, W. (2008). Play for a change: Play, policy and practice - a review of contemporary perspectives. Play England.

Lloyd, K., Burden J., & Kiewa, J. (2008). Young girls and urban parks: Planning for transition through adolescence. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 26(3), 21-38.

Loebach, J., & Cox, A. (2020). Tool for observing play outdoors (TOPO): A new typology for capturing children’s play behaviors in outdoor environments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(5), 5611. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155611

Loebach, J., Cox, A., & Little, S. (2020). Behavior mapping to support the development of youth-friendly public outdoor spaces. In J. Loebach, S. Little, A. Cox, & P.E. Owens (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of designing public spaces for young people: Processes, practices and policies for youth inclusion (pp. 308-328). Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429505614-22

Luchs, A. (2017). Assessing free play behavior in urban play spaces. In T. Waller, E. Ärlemalm-Hagsér, E.B. Hansen Sandseter, L. Lee-Hammond, K. Lekies, &S. Wyver (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of outdoor play and learning (pp. 264-278). SAGE Publications. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781526402028.n18

Lynch, K. (1977). Growing up in cities. MIT Press.

Matthews, H. (2003). The street as a liminal space: the barbed spaces of childhood. In P. Christensen & M. O’Brien (Eds.), Children in the city: Home, neighbourhood and community (pp. 101-117). Routledge Falmer.

Meire, J. (2020). Het grote buitenspeelonderzoek: buiten spelen in de buurt geobserveerd [The large outdoor play study: outdoor play observed in the neighbourhood]. Kind & Samenleving.

Miedema, S. (2020). Girls and public space. Kind & Samenleving.

O'Brien, M., Jones, D., & Sloan, D. (2000). Children's independent spatial mobility in the urban public realm. Childhood, 7(3), 257-277. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568200007003002

Parent, N., Guhn, M., Brussoni, M., Almas, A., & Oberle, E. (2021). Social determinants of playing outdoors in the neighbourhood: Family characteristics, trust in neighbours and daily outdoor play in early childhood. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 112, 120–127. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17269/s41997-020-00355-w

Rasmussen, K. (2004). Places for children – children’s places. Childhood, 11(2), 155-173. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568204043053

Reimers, A.K., Schoeppe, S., Demetriou, Y., & Knapp, G. (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(7), 1-14. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15071356

Rubin, K.H. (2001). The play observation scale (POS) - revised. University of Maryland.

Sandseter, E.B.H., Cordovil, R., Hagen, T.L., & Lopes, F. (2020). Barriers for outdoor play in early childhood education and care (ECEC) institutions: Perception of risk in children’s play among European Parents and ECEC Practitioners. Child care in practice, 26(2), 111-129. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13575279.2019.1685461

Shaw, B., Bicket, M., Elliott, B., Fagan-Watson, B., Mocca, E., & Hillman, M. (2015). Children’s independent mobility: An international comparison and recommendations for action. Policy Studies Institute.

Skår, M., & Krogh, E. (2009). Changes in children’s nature-based experiences near home: from spontaneous play to adult-controlled, planned and organized activities. Children’s Geographies, 7(3), 339-354. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14733280903024506

Skelton, T. (2022). Absent-presence present-absence: places, spaces, rights for young people. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 113(2), 170-178. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/tesg.12512

Snow, D., Bundy, A., Tranter, P., Wyver S., Naughton, G., Ragen, J., & Engelen, L. (2019). Girls’ perspectives on the ideal school playground experience: An exploratory study of four Australian primary schools. Children's Geographies, 17(2), 148-161. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2018.1463430

Thomson, J.L., & Philo, C. (2004). Playful spaces? A social geography of children’s play in Livingston, Scotland. Children’s Geographies, 2(1), 111-130. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1473328032000168804

United Nations. (1989). The convention on the rights of the child. UNICEF.

Valentine, G. (1996). Children should be seen and not heard: the production and transgression of adult’s public space. Urban Geography, 17(3), 205-220. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2747/0272-3638.17.3.205

Vermeulen, D. (2017). Gender en buitenspelen op openbare speelplekken [Gender and playing outside in public playgrounds]. Speelforum.

Walker, S., & Clark, I. (2020). Make space for girls. Make space for girls.

Ward, C. (1978). The child in the city. Architectural Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02694719

Wesselius, J.E. (2020). Greening schoolyards: Impact on children's well-being and behavior, parental support, and use for outdoor learning. [Doctoral dissertation, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam].

Whyte, W.H. (1980). The social life of small urban spaces. Project for Public Spaces.

Young, L., & Barrett, H. (2001) Adapting visual methods: Action research with Kampala street children. Area, 33(2), 141-152. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-4762.00017

Zosh, J. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Hopkins, E. J., Jensen, H., Liu, C., Neale, D., Solis, S. L., & Whitebread, D. (2018). Accessing the inaccessible: redefining play as a spectrum. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1124), 1-12. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01124

Downloads

Published

2023-10-10

How to Cite

Helleman, G., Nio, I., & de Vries, S. I. (2023). Playing outdoors: What do children do, where and with whom?. Journal of Childhood, Education & Society, 4(3), 322–337. https://doi.org/10.37291/2717638X.202343285