Children's Usage of Inclusive Playgrounds: A Naturalistic Observation Study of Play

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Oct 21;19(20):13648. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192013648.


Inclusive playgrounds that are designed to be physically accessible and welcoming to children with disabilities may provide equal and equitable access to play for all children. Using a naturalistic observational design, this study examines children's use of a playground designed to be accessible and inclusive for all ages and abilities. A modified version of the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities was used to collect child data on observed gender, age, play behaviour types, social interactions, and activity levels. A relatively equal number of female (52%) and male (48%) observations was made, and the majority (96%) of children observed appeared to be under 12 years of age. Most children (71%) were observed to be engaging in active play. Functional play (e.g., climbing, swinging, running) was the predominant play behaviour observed on the playground (88%), and the majority of social interactions were with peers (48%) or an adult (26%). These findings provide information on how children use a playground designed to be inclusive for children of all ages and abilities. This information can be used to help inform the design of inclusive play spaces as well as types of programming that may occur within such settings.

Keywords: inclusion; inclusive playground; play; play behaviours; social development.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parks, Recreational*
  • Play and Playthings*

Grants and funding

This research was supported by Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities.