I Play, You Play, We Play: Concurrent Play at PlayStreets


BACKGROUND and PURPOSE Despite multiple health and developmental benefits, many children and teens do not achieve recommended amounts of physical activity (PA). Some evidence suggests urban children are less likely to meet these recommendations possibly due to lack of safe places to play. Play Streets is one solution to encourage active play in summer months. Play Streets involve temporarily closing streets (typically 3-4 hours) to provide safe places to play. Play Streets can also promote social cohesion by creating opportunities for concurrent play.

OBJECTIVES This study assesses concurrent play at Play Streets, defined as actively playing in the same area as another individual simultaneously.

METHODS This study is part of a larger analysis of Chicago PlayStreets. During summer 2018, the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) and iSOPARC mobile application was used to measure PA at PlayStreets (n=11) organized by eight community partners. iSOPARC entails dividing a space into target areas, then systematically observing people in each area, designating age (child/teen/adult), sex (male/female), and activity level (sedentary/walking/vigorous). Activity level was dichotomized as active or sedentary. Odds ratios were used to determine the odds of observing an individual as active when in the same target area as another individual, and when in the same target area as an active individual, separated by sex and age categories.

RESULTS The presence of an active individual significantly increased the odds of observing an individual as active for several sex and age stratifications. Specifically, presence of an active male adult significantly increased the odds of observing children and teens as active. Male and female children were both significantly more likely to be observed as active while in the presence of an active child of the opposite sex. In contrast, presence of another person alone was not shown to significantly increase the odds of observing an individual as active, except in two instances when stratified by sex and age.

CONCLUSIONS Active male adults seem to have a significant positive impact on activity levels at PlayStreets underlining the importance of engaged male figures. Additionally, presence of active children had a positive impact on observed PA among children, suggesting active play may promote more PA in others.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE AND POLICY These data suggest concurrent play is important for promoting PA among children. Designing interventions that encourage engagement among children, and among adults and children, may be one way to promote active play.

FUNDING SOURCE This research is a product of a Prevention Research Center and was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number U48DP005045 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Findings and conclusions of this research are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the CDC.

Feb 2, 2020
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