Study finds backyard play equipment increases outdoor activity in pre-schoolers

A new study out this week has found the more play equipment you have in the backyard the more active your child will be, yet only one third of all Australian pre-schoolers are getting enough exercise.

The main factor associated with increased playtime for pre-schoolers was the number of fixed play structures in the backyard, according to the Australian study published in the Public Health Research & Practice by the Sax Institute.

The study looked at home-based outdoor play in nearly 1,600 Perth pre-schoolers on days when they were not in childcare.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Hayley Christian, senior research fellow at The University of Western Australia’s School of Population and Global Health and Telethon Kids Institute said, this is the first time we’ve been able to comprehensively measure outdoor play time in the home.

“The home yard is crucial for providing an opportunity for kids to be active, as they are so dependent on their parents and don’t have the independent mobility to get out and about on their own,” Dr Christiaan said.

“When not in childcare, children spent little more than an hour a day playing in their backyard.

“The main factor associated with increased playtime in the yard was the number of fixed play structures with each additional piece of equipment adding an average of five minutes to a child’s daily playtime,” she said.

“Federal Government guidelines recommend preschoolers spend at least three hours a day being physically active, but UWA researchers say this is only achieved by a third of children. One in five Australian preschoolers are now considered overweight or obese.

“Backyard play is a much better option than screen time, considering all the health and developmental benefits children get by playing outdoors and being physically active,” Dr Christian said.

The researchers clocked the time children spent playing outdoors against a number of factors, including backyard size, outdoor features (grassed or paved areas, trees, gardens), fixed play equipment (climbing structures, playhouses, sandpits, swings, trampolines) and portable play items (balls, flying discs, scooters, etc.).

“As parents we may not have time to take our kids to the park each day, but they don’t need to be in the house on a device. Why not allow them out in the yard and let them go?”

Read the full study here as published in March 2019 in Public Health Research & Practice by the Sax Institute.