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Playground Research

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Scientific Research Review- Playground Research

Playground markings are currently a popular intervention strategy in the increasing epidemic of childhood obesity.

Numerous playground research studies have shown that playground markings increase children’s physical activity levels at recess.

Scientifically based research cited in the literature review demonstrates that a research base exists to support the use of playground markings for improving children’s physical activity levels.

Playground Research conclusions from this review include:

  • Increase children’s physical activity levels. Use of playground markings is effective in increasing the amount of physical activity.
  • Increase children’s energy expenditures. Students utilizing playground markings increased their energy expenditure significantly over the control groups.
  • Increase activity levels in primary and junior schools. Use of playgrounds painted with multicolored markings increases physical activity.
  • Decrease bullying. Use of playground markings, in conjunction with the Peaceful Playgrounds Program, were found to decrease playground bullying.
  • Decrease playground confrontations. Use of playground markings, in conjunction with the Peaceful Playgrounds Program, were found to decrease playground confrontations.
  • Decrease playground injuries. Use of playground markings, in conjunction with the Peaceful Playground program, were shown to decrease playground injuries.
The Peaceful Playgrounds Program significantly reduced injuries while at the same time dramatically reduced the incidences of rule infractions and misbehavior.


Evidence-Based Strategies to Address Childhood Obesity in Florida
Florida’s Martin County Health Department embarked on a three-year effort to use quality improvement processes to address contributing risk factors that impact childhood overweight and obesity.
playground research and physical activity
Playground Intervention Gets Florida First-Graders Moving
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Research Results & Recommendations

Results from this study are clearly promising and this novel, inexpensive intervention which used the children to help select game markings, has potential to improve the health of children by increasing their energy expenditure through the promotion of physically active recess games.

Overall, the results suggest that playground painting can be a low-cost method of significantly increasing children’s daily physical activity levels in the short term. If these increases can be sustained on playgrounds designed in this way, it could be a valuable contribution to health-related physical activity recommendations for young people.

Blueprint and Promising programs have been determined by the United States Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free School and Community Program research; Classic and Emerging programs have been selected by the California Hate Crime Task Force. Four specific criteria were used by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence for selecting and identifying Blueprint or Promising programs for United States Department of Education.

  1. Strong Research Design.
  2. Evidence of Significant Prevention or Deterrent Effects.
  3. Multiple Site Replication.
  4. Sustained Effects.

Peaceful Playgrounds was a highlighted program in the curriculum category for the Promising Practices in After School Programming List Serve.
Peaceful Playgrounds is a physical activity program that has shown to decrease playground injuries, decrease bullying, and increase children’s physical activity levels.

The National Guideline Clearinghouse recommends our activities as a way to increase time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity during unstructured recess time.
Increasing physical activity in schools: kindergarten through eighth grade…
Use pre-developed design templates specifically designed to increase physical activity on the playground. Playground Markings and Activities are available from Peaceful Playgrounds. 
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Evaluation by a nationwide initiative that acts to decrease the incidence of childhood obesity by improving nutrition and increasing physical activity in schools, which will improve children’s readiness to learn. – 39kb – 2 Pages
Effectiveness of a Playground Interventions for Antisocial, Prosocial, and Physical Activity Behaviors
Effectiveness of a Playground Intervention for Antisocial, Prosocial, and Physical Activity Behaviors
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2 may promote increased PA during recess, but these results demonstrate the complexity of intervention implementation and the need for rigor when measuring intervention fidelity in real-world settings.

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The following programs have been either research tested and proven effective or reviewed and considered to be a promising practice. – 232kb – 6 Pages
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Violence or hate behavior prevention programs toolkit – 97kb – 27 Pages
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The Whole Story – Promising Practices in After School – 56kb – 3 Pages

January 5, 2012, | by Janelle Berry-Blasingame

For Elementary

Our school’s new Peaceful Playground was installed this past summer. As part of the Peaceful Playground Initiative, I was asked to teach students during physical education classes a variety of cooperative games they could play on the new playground. I took this as a chance to embed safe, fun recess structures all our students could enjoy. We had struggled in past years to keep recess play positive and bully-free, and I felt early, student-initiated intervention could help. I added an emphasis on teaching simple, language-based conflict resolution. I discovered that elements of positive teacher language can improve the language that students use with each other as well.

My goal: students will be respectful to each other and play cooperatively on the playground. I wanted to see good manners, positive social interaction, and teamwork in groups of all sizes. I wanted to hear laughter, respectful words, and kind voices. I wanted to feel a sense of acceptance among the students, successful playing, and a general sense of being in control, physically and emotionally.

The Responsive Classroom practices of interactive modeling and positive teacher language were at the heart of my plan. I modeled how to play the games on the Peaceful Playground and how to talk through conflicts that might occur there. After demonstrating how to play a game, I asked questions like, “What was my running style like?” “Where were my eyes when I was running?” and “What did you notice about my tagging technique?”

After showing how to resolve a conflict, I asked students questions like, “What did you notice about my voice level?” Where were my eyes looking as I was talking?” and “What types of words did I use?” Each time I asked a question I got the answers I was hoping to hear.

Next, I had a few students demonstrate how to play the games and resolve conflicts. Before they demonstrated, I established a rule for student demos: they had to demo it properly, the way I had done (or better). They weren’t allowed to demonstrate anything the wrong way, or to be silly. Then I asked the volunteer modelers to demonstrate how to respond if a player breaks a game rule. They were instructed to use direct and simple, conflict resolution language: “You broke the rule.” “Your foot was on the line.”
“The ball went out of bounds.”

It struck me while arranging these activities that I was really taking the teacher language strategies I had learned in Responsive Classroom training and asking students to use the same type of direct, descriptive, specific, non-judgmental language. “Teacher language” can be “student language,” too, and can have all the same benefits! In this case, using simple, direct, descriptive language was helping us begin to learn how to resolve conflicts early before a more formal intervention would be necessary.

I chose our student demonstrators carefully; they followed my guidelines perfectly and took the job seriously. As is usually the case, the audience’s interest in student demonstrations was greater than when I demonstrated.

I also used posted daily messages to remind students of the playground initiative as they entered the gym. I don’t see each student every day, and only for 28 minutes when I do see them, so I’ve found posting messages for students to read as they enter our gym to be a great way to focus them on daily goals.

Message examples

  • Good Morning, Wildcats,
    Last week we learned some new games for the blacktop. What is one way you can encourage your friends when playing?
  • Hello, and Welcome Back after the long weekend!
    Before we left, we learned how to solve certain problems on the playground by using rock, paper, scissors. Find a partner and play rock, paper, scissors with him/her. Once class began, I would refer to the posted question and listen to student-generated responses.

Gauging results
To measure if my efforts were paying off, I analyzed student playground behavior three times during the first three months of school, looking for the respectful behaviors I had targeted (good manners, positive social interaction, teamwork, specific, simple language used to resolve conflicts, etc).

The results indicate students are showing more respect towards each other and the adult monitors. I saw several student interactions in which a conflict occurred and students attempted to resolve it. I now believe that a redirect from a peer—the effect of simple, direct, specific redirecting language used student to student—seems to carry more weight than a redirect from an adult.

I also surveyed thirty students in September and again in November, and interviewed several. These assessments showed clear overall improvement in their perception of the level of respectful recess play. Some interesting findings in the data included students feel more negative about each other’s playground behavior before they go out to use the playground than they do after they have played together.

Perhaps they remember one bad experience they had, and just before they head out, and that memory is with them, but after a fun-filled experience, that negative memory is abated. I’ll continue to explore this and other questions as I pursue the goal of a peaceful playground.
Janelle Berry-Blasingame teaches K-5 physical education at Westwood Elementary School in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Bullying and feelings of safety, seemed to improve over the course of the grant, and students improved as assessed by the Clark Motor Skills Inventory and the We Count pedometer program.
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 – Final Report
January 2006 – 21 Pages – 188kb
Peaceful Playgrounds schools reported the very positive impact of recess or physical activity on academic achievement, social development, and general well-being. Major improvement in overall classroom behavior after recess, physical education, or school physical activity.
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 – Results
January 2008 – 24 Pages – 10mb
A Plan for Playground Games
Louisiana Department of Education – Action for Healthy Kids
Physical Education Best Practices Initiatives – Wisconsin:
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A sample of physical education initiatives in Wisconsin – 58kb – 1 Page
The San Diego County Consortium (SDCC) was designed to provide standards-based curriculum, equipment and instructional support for physical education programs in elementary schools without physical education specialists.
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August 2005 – 47kb
Rationale and protocol paper for the Healthy Active Peaceful Playgrounds for Youth (HAPPY) Study
Protocol Paper for Healthy Active Peaceful Playgrounds for Youth (HAPPY) study
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Australian Study Protocols for study of Peaceful Playgrounds Program in Australia

COPI and its partners work to create environments and policies that support physical activity and healthy eating for all Californians.
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April 2005 – 120kb
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December 2008 – 4 Pages – 38kb
Grip-peer Mediators-08-09
Grip-peer Mediators-08-09
grip-peer mediators-08-09.pdf
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May 2008 – 1 Page – 71kb
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August 2004 – 15 Pages – 92kb

Effectiveness of Peaceful Playgrounds in Increasing PA

The present results suggest that a commercially available recess program can be effective in increasing MVPA if fully implemented. However, results demonstrate the complexity of intervention implementation. Furthermore, the results highlight the need for increased rigor within the measurement of treatment fidelity. While the P2 program showed significant but modest results in one intervention school, increased MPVA in one of the control schools indicates a possible secular trend in youth PA. However, follow-up interviews in the current study suggested that the control school that exhibited increased MVPA among the observed students may have implemented an equally effective recess program of their own. This presents an important lesson for researchers to consider when designing and conducting program evaluations. Specifically, careful implementation monitoring in both intervention and control schools is important.

The Effectiveness of Peaceful Playgrounds in increasing PA
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Portable Playground Equipment and Increased Physical Activity

Increasing preschoolers’ physical activity intensities: an activity-friendly preschool playground intervention Hannon JC, Brown BB. Prev Med. 2008 Jun;46(6):532-6. Epub 2008 Jan 26.

The purpose of this study was to see if portable play equipment added to a preschool playground resulted in higher intensities of physical activity among 3-5-year-old children.

Conclusion: Results suggest simple interventions, requiring little teacher training, can yield increases in healthy physical activity.

Relationships between the home environment and physical activity and dietary patterns of preschool children: a cross-sectional study N Spurrier, A Magarey, R Golley, F Curnow and M Sawyer. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2008, 5:31

Conclusion: Physical attributes of the home environment and parental behaviors are associated with preschool children’s physical activity, sedentary behaviors and dietary patterns. Many of these variables are modifiable and could be targeted in childhood obesity prevention and management. Three factors influenced the amount of children’s physical activity at home. 1. parental physical activity, 2. size of backyard, and 3. amount of outdoor play equipment.

San Diego County Office of Education
Instructional Television Presentation

Shaping Up: It’s ElementaryShaping Up: It's Elementary
Solutions for Childhood Obesity.
PEP Grant Components.
SPARK and Peaceful Playgrounds.
View this 30 minute program…

Research on Playground Markings and Increased Physical Activity

Research shows physical activity is linked to increased learning Deb Loy, MSBA Journal. 2008 July/August.

Conclusion: Physical activity has always been a part of children’s educational experience. While many factors have contributed to the decline in students’ activity levels, there are multiple reasons and resources for school leaders to consider in reclaiming physical activity as an essential component to their growth, development and education.

The effect of multicolor playground markings on children’s physical activity level during recess Stratton G, Mullan E., Prev Med. 2005 Nov-Dec;41(5-6):828-33. Epub 2005 Aug 31.

Conclusion: Multicolor playground markings can be a low-cost method of increasing children’s daily physical activity levels in the short term. If these increases were sustained, then school playgrounds with multicolor markings would make a valuable contribution to physical activity recommendations for young people.

Promoting children’s physical activity in primary school: an intervention study using playground markings Stratton G. , Ergonomics. 2000 Oct;43(10):1538-46

Conclusion: These results suggest that while playground markings had a significant and positive influence on children’s physical activity, factors other than playground markings may also influence children’s physically active play.

Long-term effects of a playground markings and physical structures on children’s recess physical activity levels Ridgers ND, Stratton G, Fairclough SJ, Twisk JW. Prev Med. 2007 May;44(5):393-7. Epub 2007 Feb 1.

Conclusion: The results suggest that a playground redesign, which utilizes multicolor playground markings and physical structures, is a suitable stimulus for increasing children’s school recess physical activity levels.

Children’s physical activity levels during school recess: a quasi-experimental intervention study Ridgers ND, Stratton G, Fairclough SJ, Twisk JW. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2007 May 21;4:19.

Conclusion: The playground redesign intervention (playground markings and physical structures intervention) resulted in small but non-significant increases in children’s recess physical activity when school and pupil level variables were added to the analyses. Changing the playground environment produced a stronger intervention effect for younger children, and longer daily recess duration enabled children to engage in more MVPA following the intervention.

This study concludes that the process of increasing recess physical activity is complex when school and pupil level covariates are considered, though they should be taken into account when investigating the effects of playground intervention studies on children’s physical activity during recess.


By | 2018-01-02T10:31:19+00:00 January 17th, 2013|About, Research|0 Comments

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