The research sought to find the salient perceived characteristics of playgrounds for African-American children and their parents, and to test effects of changes in those characteristics on playground choice.
Thirty-one African-American children and their parents sorted 15 photographs of playgrounds for similarity. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling on the similarity scores and correlations between the resulting dimensions and judged characteristics of each playground revealed salient perceived characteristics. Study 2 had 40 African-American children and their parents view pairs of photographs, manipulated on the salient characteristics, and pick the one to play on (child question) or for the child to play on (parent question). A third study inventoried and observed children’s activities in 14 playgrounds.
Study 1 found seats, fence, playground type, and softness of surface as salient perceived characteristics of the playground. Study 2 found that participants were more likely to pick playgrounds with equipment and playgrounds with a softer surface. Study 3 found higher levels of physical activity for playground settings with equipment.
The findings confirm correlational findings on the desirability of equipment and safety. Communities need to test the effects of changes in playgrounds.