One quarter of children in Australia are overweight and 15 per cent have mental-health-related complaints (e.g. aggression, depression) – problems that are often inter-related. Recent decreases in outdoor play may be partly responsible. Outdoor play encourages social interaction and physical activity; indoor play is often sedentary and solitary. Most young children love active outdoor play but parents and teachers fear injury.
The primary purpose of the three-year Sydney Playground Research project is to establish the effectiveness of a simple, cost-effective intervention (i.e., altering the playground environment) for increasing children’s activity levels and social skills - a contributor to mental health. A second aim of the project is to help adults change their views of risk associated with active play. The intervention employed in the Sydney Playground Research Project has the potential to serve as prevention and early stage intervention for two of the biggest social ills facing young children in Australia: obesity and mental ill health. Further, it has the potential to revolutionise school playgrounds and the policies governing play throughout Australia.
Data is being collected in 12 -18 Sydney primary schools, where half are intervention and half are control schools. In each school 20 children (age 5-7 years) will be studied and data on their physical activity levels, social and coping skills will be collected.
The Sydney Playground Database project has provided an online database which enables storage of a wide range of media and allows collaborative access to the data for the cross-institutional project collaborators.
Five Australian institutions require access to the project data, consisting of the University of Sydney, Macquarie University, the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, UNSW’s Australian Defence Force Academy and the University of South Australia. International collaborative access also occurs.
Project sheet available here