M. Bloemen1, D. van Harten1, N. Altena1, I. van der Put2
1HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Researchgroup Lifestyle and Health, Intitute of Human Movement Studies, Utrecht, Netherlands, 2ZET, Tilburg, Netherlands

Background: Even though the physical activity levels of typically developing children are already low, children with a physical disability are even less physically active than their typically developing peers. The importance of physical activity for all children has been well described in the literature. Playing outside is an important factor in improving physical activity. Furthermore, outside play is essential for the social and motor development and the general wellbeing of all children. Unfortunately, evidence shows that the time that children spent playing outside decreases. Children with physical disabilities experience a variety of barriers considering participation in outside active play. Most playgrounds in the Netherlands are still not accessible for children with physical disabilities. In addition, if playgrounds are accessible for children with a physical disability, they do not always stimulate inclusive physically active play.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore which playground arrangements can stimulate inclusive and physically active play.

Methods: This study has a descriptive qualitative design. The views and experiences of parents from children with physical disabilities, of professionals working with children with physical disabilities and of designers and developers were included. We collected data by semi-structured interviews; conducting three focus groups (n=17) and two individual interviews. All interviews were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Furthermore, we reassessed 17 transcripts of a former study looking at facilitators and barriers for inclusive active play. The transcripts were data from 5 focus groups (n=25) and 12 individual interviews. Two independent researchers analyzed all available data using an inductive thematic approach.

Results: This paper identifies six themes describing what the arrangement of a playground needs to ensure inclusive physically active outside play, namely
1) variation and diversity,
2) challenging aspects,
3) attractive and inviting aspects,
4) creativity and fantasy,
5) safety and shelter and
6) accessibility.
Moreover, inclusion of children with and without disabilities during the development or adjustment of playgrounds, seems essential.

Conclusion(s): The identified six themes provide a guideline for inclusive active outside play when developing or adjusting playgrounds. Professionals working in the field of pediatric rehabilitation should be aware of these guidelines so they can advise and support this development. Future research should establish if these guidelines indeed increase inclusive physically active outside play.

Implications: Professionals working in the field of pediatric rehabilitation, such as pediatric physical therapists, can play an active role in advising and supporting the development of inclusive playgrounds that stimulate physical active play. This enhances the opportunities for a physically active lifestyle of children with and without disabilities.

Funding, acknowledgements: This study was funded by the Foundation Innovation Alliance-Regional Attention and Action for Knowledge Circulation (SIA RAAK, project number HBOPD.2018.01.008)

Keywords: children with disabilities, inclusive play, playground arrangements

Topic: Paediatrics

Did this work require ethics approval? No
Institution: HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht
Committee: Ethical Screening Committee, Health Domain
Reason: Qualitative research, no burden

All authors, affiliations and abstracts have been published as submitted.

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