April 1997

Factors Parents Use in Selecting Play Spaces for Young Children

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychology (Dr Sallis) and Exercise and Nutritional Sciences (Dr McKenzie) and the Graduate School of Public Health (Dr Elder), San Diego State University; and the Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego (Drs Broyles and Nader).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(4):414-417. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170410088012

Background:  The amount of time children spend in play spaces (ie, physical locations that are appropriate for children's physical activity) near their homes is correlated with their level of physical activity.

Objective:  To examine factors used in parents' decisions about the selection of play spaces for their children.

Subjects:  Parents (primarily mothers) of 178 Mexican American and 122 white children who were a mean age of 4.9 years old at the first measurement.

Measures:  In individual interviews, parents rated 24 factors on their importance in selecting for their children a play space that is away from their home or yard. Decision factors were rated from 1 (ie, not important at all) to 5 (ie, very important).

Results:  The most important factors, with ratings ranging from 4.8 to 4.2, were safety and availability of toilets, drinking water, lighting, and shade. Mexican American parents rated 8 of 24 items significantly higher than did white parents, including lighted at night, organized activities, play supplies, and drinking water. White parents rated 5 of 24 items significantly higher than did Mexican American parents, including distance from home, cost of admission, and child's friends go there. The rated importance of 7 of 24 items increased during 1 year, including play supplies, drinking water, distance from home, and parents' friends or relatives go there.

Conclusions:  These results indicate that parents can identify factors they use in selecting places for their young children to play, and selection factors differ somewhat by ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Further studies are needed to determine whether improvements on the most important selection factors might be effective in increasing the use of play spaces by children and their parents. Clinicians may be able to use the most highly rated decision factors to help parents assess the acceptability of play spaces in their areas.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:414-417