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Play for health: Evidence based approaches in preschool playgrounds

10-12-2010 09:09 AM CET | Industry, Real Estate & Construction

Press release from: KOMPAN Playscape Pty Ltd

Play for health
- Evidence based approaches in preschool playgrounds
Jeanette Fich Jespersen, KOMPAN Play Institute, International Manager

The growth in overweight and obesity has made playgrounds and parks more relevant than ever. The awareness that parks and playgrounds matter in the prevention of overweight in children has grown. Some cities have made an extra effort to plan activity into parks. Others have made cross-departmental solutions and opened school yards up for play after school hours. But do we know what actually works to increase self chosen outdoor physical activity for our children?

Last autumn the KOMPAN Play Institute embarked on a pilot study run by The Institute of Sport Sciences and Clinical Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark. The men behind the survey were Karsten Froberg and Lars Bo Andersen who last year established that children need a minimum of 90 minutes moderate physical activity a day to stay physically fit. The pilot study should investigate the activity of preschool children in 7 schools. The seventh preschool was the Four Seasons Preschool, a preschool built and planned on the KOMPAN philosophy of children’s right to play outdoors in a well planned play garden.

The results were quite remarkable. The only children that reached the WHO recommended activity level of merely 60 minutes a day were The Four Seasons’. In the remaining six preschools average activity was much lower, but levels were almost identical. Even though we might feel that this has been documented before, the scientists had not expected these big differences. So what we consider old news surprised the experienced and empirically working scientists.

This demonstrates a strange schism: on the one hand the actual preschool study makes it possible to assert that free outdoor play in a well planned play garden is more efficient for 3-6yearold children’s activity levels than the more adult directed environments of the traditional preschools. On the other hand scientists will claim that the survey only justifies an indication. To create evidence takes more than 7 preschools. And then we still haven’t had evidence of what is key for activity: the amount or design of space, the equipment, the adult attitude – or specific combinations of these.

Observations of play professionals are well worth acknowledging when it comes to indications of what works or doesn’t work for the children. As soon as we deal with new initiatives or user segments, though, these experiences do not necessarily suffice. It might even prove wrong to trust experience due to the rapid changes in lifestyles today. Thus updating of knowledge is paramount in park and playground planning. Furthermore, the observations and experiences are usually too meager an argument to convince the budget planners and politicians. Should observations succeed in changing minds at this level, they need back up from evidence based proof.

KOMPAN provides award winning playground equipment including swing sets, slides, rope nets and playhouses that suit all ages and abilities.

12 Kingtel Place, Geebung, QLD, Australia, 4067
kompan.au@kompan.com
http://www.kompan.com.au/

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