Introducing new objects to schoolyards and educating parents and teachers on risky play can significantly increase children's physical activity, according to a University of Sydney study.
The Sydney Playground Project, a three-year research study by the university's Health Sciences Faculty, worked with 12 Australian primary schools, focusing on school children aged five to seven, their parents and teachers.
Researchers introduced objects into schoolyards such as cardboard boxes, old car tyres, colourful fabrics, and styrofoam and milk crates. Workshops were also conducted with parents and teachers to discuss play and perceptions around risk-taking.
Lead researcher Professor Anita Bundy says the study may have helped reverse parents' and teachers' perception of risky play by helping them understand what encourages children to be physically active. "We found that these simple objects coupled with an education program for parents and teachers significantly increased the children's activity levels," she says.
Results of the study have been published online in the Preventive Medicine Journal.