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Children's active free play in local neighborhoods: A behavioral mapping study

Summary


Children’s active free play in their neighborhoods is complex

Veitch and colleagues investigated where children engage in active free play in their neighborhoods and factors that influence their active free play. Over 200 eight- to twelve-year-old children from schools located in a range of socioeconomic areas in Melbourne, Australia completed a mapping activity and survey about their active free play behaviors, such as places where they ride or walk in their neighborhood without an adult. In this article, Veitch and colleagues discuss numerous findings, some of which are reported below. For example, researchers found that, overall, children reported being most active in their yard at home, followed by the park/playground and a friend’s/relative’s yard. With regard to distance from children’s homes to the closest and most often visited park, Veitch and colleagues found that, on average, children traveled 590 meters to reach their closest park and 1736 meters to reach the park they usually visited. In examining children’s independent mobility, researchers found that 36% of children reported being able to go to over three places without an adult and being able to walk or cycle more than 1000 meters from their home without an adult. Importantly, for each of the primary areas investigated, Veitch and colleagues found significant gender, age, and/or socioeconomic differences. For example, researchers found that girls reported being more active in their yard at home than boys, children from low socioeconomic areas reported having to travel more than 2 to 2.5 times further to get to their closest or usually visited park than children from high socioeconomic areas, and more children from low socioeconomic areas reported that they could travel more than 1000 meters from home without an adult as compared to children from mid and high socioeconomic areas. In their data analysis, Veitch and colleagues also found no significant associations between children’s use of parks/playgrounds and other open spaces and the various distance and independent mobility measures, which suggests that factors other than distance and independent mobility influence children’s use of these places.  This study provides an important contribution to our understanding of children’s use of their local neighborhood for active free play.

Citation

Veitch, J., Salmon, J., Ball, K., (2008). Children's active free play in local neighborhoods: A behavioral mapping study. Health Education Research, 23(5), 870-879.

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