Spying on children during a school playground intervention using a novel method for direct observation of activities during outdoor play
Our aims were to examine the efficacy of a new observational instrument 'System for Observing Outdoor Play' for detecting changes in outdoor play and chart the use of recycled and repurposed materials in the school playground during the course of an intervention to increase outdoor play. Children from one Sydney primary school were observed (N = 111; 5-12 years) using an observational instrument developed as part of the Sydney Playground Project. Data on types of activities and frequencies were collected at baseline and seven times during intervention. Use of intervention materials was consistently high and associated with increases in play-related activities (40-77%), while inactive pursuits decreased (52-31%), on average. The observational instrument proved efficacious in tracking changes in play. Modification of the school playground environment by introducing loose parts changed children's play-related behaviour; the variety of activities increased, including construction and creative play. Physical inactivity decreased. Recycled materials can increase children's creative, social and physical play.