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Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004 Apr;158(4):353-7.

Parental report of outdoor playtime as a measure of physical activity in preschool-aged children.

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Divisions of General and Community Pediatrics and Cardiology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



Keeping young children physically active is an important strategy to promote their health and well-being. To our knowledge, survey measures of physical activity in preschool-aged children are unavailable. Time spent playing outdoors is a potential surrogate measure of physical activity in preschoolers, but parental-report measures of outdoor playtime have not been evaluated.


To compare a direct measure of physical activity in preschool-aged children with 2 parental-report measures of children's outdoor playtime.


Three days of recording with a 3-dimensional accelerometer were used to directly measure physical activity in 250 preschool-aged children. We calculated each child's average vector magnitude per minute while awake. Parental report of outdoor playtime was measured in 2 ways: (1). the score from a checklist used to record outdoor playtime over 3 days and (2). a recall of the usual minutes of daily outdoor playtime during the prior month. We calculated Spearman rank correlation coefficients among these 3 measures.


The mean age of the children was 44 months, 87.7% were white, and 12.3% were black. Parents reported that their children spent a mean (+/-SD) of 146 (+/-113) minutes playing outdoors each day. Physical activity as measured by the accelerometer was significantly correlated to the time spent playing outdoors, as measured by the checklist (r = 0.33, P <.001) and recall (r = 0.20, P =.003).


Parental-report measures of outdoor playtime were significantly correlated to a direct measure of physical activity in preschool-aged children, and are worthy of future evaluation as a survey measure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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