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Can J Public Health. 2007 May-Jun;98(3):198-202.

Splashpads, swings, and shade: parents' preferences for neighbourhood parks.

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Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, ON.



Physical activity is a modifiable behaviour that can help curtail the increasing worldwide problem of childhood obesity. Appropriate recreational opportunities, including neighbourhood parks, are particularly important for promoting physical activity among children. Because children's use of parks is mainly under the influence of their parents, understanding parents' preferences is essential for creating the most inviting and usable park space to facilitate children's physical activity.


Eighty-two intercept interviews were conducted with a heterogeneous sample of parents/guardians watching their children at neighbourhood parks in London, Ontario. Parents/guardians were asked questions about how often they frequent the park, whether it is the closest to their residence, and their likes/dislikes for the park. Strategies to ensure trustworthiness of the data were employed.


Interviewees attended their park of choice between 1-7 times per week with the average being 2.5 times per week. Only 49% of respondents frequented the park closest to their starting destination (home or daycare facility), and the majority travelled more than 4 km to get to the park. For those who chose to travel a significant distance to attend their park of choice, park location was not as important as the amenities they desired. Parents' main reasons for choosing parks were: water attractions, shade, swings, and cleanliness.


The current study provides useful insights on park use with potentially important implications for increasing physical activity among children. Incorporating parents' preferences into strategies for creating or modifying city parks will help to ensure that limited public resources are being targeted most effectively in support of children's physical activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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