Objectives and importance of study: Young children’s outdoor play mostly occurs within the home space, yet the influence of the home yard on preschoolers’ outdoor play and physical activity is poorly understood. Relationships between home yard features and home-based outdoor play and physical activity in preschoolers (2–5 years old) was investigated.
Study type: Cross-sectional observational study
Methods: The PLAYCE study (2015–2017) included 1596 children aged 2–5 years attending early childhood education and care (ECEC) services throughout metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. A subsample of 224 parents completed an online questionnaire about home yard features (size, lawn quality, natural features, fixed and portable play equipment, flowers and vegetables/herbs). Accelerometers measured preschoolers’ duration of moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) on non-ECEC days. Parent-reported outdoor play at home, sociodemographic factors and social environment factors were collected via the PLAYCE parent survey. Multiple linear regression models were used to determine associations between yard features and preschoolers’ outdoor play and physical activity.
Results: Children spent 68.9 (SD = 2.2) minutes playing outdoors in the yard per day, and 93.3 (SD = 37.1) minutes in MVPA per day on non-ECEC days. After adjusting for child and parent factors, yard features positively associated with outdoor play included yard size, lawn quality, number of types of fixed and portable play equipment, natural features and play areas (all p ≤ 0.05). When all significant yard features were placed in a model, only the number of types of fixed play equipment was positively associated with minutes of outdoor play per day (β = 5.3, p < 0.001). After adjusting for sociodemographic factors, the number of types of portable play equipment in the yard was positively associated with MVPA minutes per day (β = 2.16, p = 0.019), however was nonsignificant after further adjusting for social environment factors.
Conclusions: Features of the home yard physical environment were positively associated with preschoolers’ outdoor play and physical activity. Each additional type of fixed play equipment present was associated with an additional 5 minutes of outdoor play per day. These findings suggest that the home yard space has the potential to facilitate increased outdoor play in young children. Further research is warranted to explore causal relationships between yard attributes and young children’s outdoor play and physical activity.