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Background: Spaces that promote play are important for the physical, social, and psychological growth of children. Public spaces, including playgrounds, provide an important venue for children to engage in play. A simple tool is needed to evaluate playground features and conditions. Methods: A simple play space audit instrument to assess the presence and condition of playground features was tested on a sample of 70 playgrounds during the summer of 2017, in Chicago, IL. Duplicate observations were collected on 17 playgrounds. Frequencies of features were tabulated, and reliability of variables was assessed using percent agreement and kappa statistic. Scores were created to summarize playground “playability,” overall and within domains of general overview, surface, path, and play equipment/structure features. Results: The tool demonstrated acceptable reliability with high kappa values between .79 and .90 for all items in domains. The overall score, general overview score, and play equipment/structure scores were correlated with mean playground usage. Conclusions: This brief instrument allows reliable assessment of playground features and their conditions. The scoring method generates a summary of playground conditions and features, which facilitates comparison of playgrounds. This tool has the potential to assist communities in evaluating their play spaces and identifying where to focus resources for improvements.
Gustat is with the Department of Epidemiology, Tulane Prevention Research Center, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA. Anderson is with the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA. Slater is with the Department of Pharmaceutical and Administrative Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, WI.