An Assessment of Schoolyard Features and Behavior Patterns in Children’s Utilization and Physical Activity

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year online subscription

USD  $117.00

1 year online subscription

USD  $156.00

Student 2 year online subscription

USD  $222.00

2 year online subscription

USD  $296.00


Careful research that elucidates how behavior relates to design in the context of elementary school grounds can serve to guide cost-efficient design with the goal of encouraging physical activity (PA). This work explores patterns in children’s PA behavior within playground spaces with the specific goal of guiding healthy playground design.


Data on children’s utilization and PA behavior in 6 playgrounds divided into 106 observation zones were collected in 2005 and 2006 at Denver elementary school playgrounds using the System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth. Analyses of variance and t tests determined whether there were differences in utilization and behavior patterns across observations zones and between genders.


This study provides evidence that children prefer to use certain types of playground zones and that they are more likely to practice moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in some zones. The authors observed statistically significant differences between genders. Boys were more likely to engage in MVPA in zones without equipment, girls were more likely to use zones with equipment.


This work suggests that the inclusion or omission of specific playground features may have an impact on the way that children use the spaces.

Anthamatten is with the Dept of Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Denver, CO. Brink is with the Colorado Center for Community Development, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado, Denver, CO. Kingston and Kutchman are with the Institute of Behavioral Science, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado, Denver, CO. Lampe is with the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials, Denver, CO. Nigg is with the Dept of Public Health Sciences, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI.