Communities and Collections

Evaluating child-friendly spaces: Insights from a participatory mixed methods study of a municipality's preschool free-play environments

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Free play, play controlled by the player(s), is an essential and positive determinant of children’s social, physical, and emotional health. Ensuring opportunities for dynamic free play in rich physical and social environments is foundational to a child-friendly community. This paper discusses methodological lessons from a participatory mixed methods research partnership (multi-site case study) that evaluated the impact of a municipal investment in an indoor play- based preschool recreation program and space on promoting free play. We reflect on the approach used to understand the differences between an innovative space, purposefully designed to promote free play, and conventional preschool recreation spaces with respect to child-friendly design. This study explored the multifaceted nature of children’s play from the perspectives of parents, preschool instructors, and children relative to children’s interaction with the physical and social attributes of three preschool environments. The use of a participatory mixed methods approach permitted a nuanced study of the conditions that support free play in municipal preschool recreation programs, which also can be used to study other community spaces.
    Rigorous methodology allowed for the careful investigation of purported child-friendly places to reveal findings that can provide policy-makers and community stakeholders with viable documentation for future investments in children’s play.

  • Date created
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Draft / Submitted)
  • DOI
  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
  • Language
  • Citation for previous publication
    • Nykiforuk, C. I., Hewes, J., Belon, A. P., Paradis, D., Gallagher, E., Gokiert, R., ... & Nieuwendyk, L. (2018). Evaluating child-friendly spaces: insights from a participatory mixed methods study of a municipality’s free-play preschool and space. Cities & Health, 1-15.