Promotion of physical activity in children depends on an understanding of how children use play equipment.
We conducted observations over 2 years of children in 2nd through 8th grades in a schoolyard with 5 distinct play areas with different amounts of play equipment.
Children were more likely to play in areas with more installed play equipment, with densities of children in equipped areas 3.3 to 12.6 times higher than in an open grassy field. There were no significant differences by play area in the percent of children who were physically active at all, but children were more likely to be very active in areas with basketball goals and an installed play structure than in an open field.
Playground equipment appeared to have a strong influence on where children played and a moderate influence on levels of activity. To maximize physical activity in children, playgrounds should be designed with ample and diverse play equipment.
Farley, Baker, Rice, and Webber are with the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70112. Meriwether is with the Dept of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29209.