The Sydney Playground Project started in 2009, but the idea itself is older. In 2003 and 2004, Professor Anita Bundy gathered a number of people with interest and expertise in children’s health. Their common denominator was the belief that play should be an integral part of children’s daily occupation and that play is beneficial in many different ways.
Many children in Australia are overweight, bullied or have poor mental health – problems that are often inter-related. One reason for these problems is that the amount of outdoor play has decreased in recent years. Outdoor play encourages social interaction and physical activity; indoor play is often sedentary and solitary. Play involves physical activity, creativity and cooperation, all of which will help children develop and maintain good physical and mental health. Best of all: most young children love outdoor play and will therefore pursue it.
In 2005, a pilot study was performed at one primary school in Western Sydney using “near-miss funds” from the University. The results were promising, so the research team started to apply for grants to investigate in a larger study.
In 2009, the team was granted funds from both the two major Australian funding bodies: NHMRC and ARC for three years. Our happiness was great - the “real” study could start!
In March 2009 we started extending the project team, recruiting schools, training students and sourcing test devices. In July 2009, after some very intense months of hard work, we started the first round of pre-testing with shaky legs! Fast forward to 2011 and we have collected data in twelve schools and are in the process of analysing the data.