Living Reference Work Entry

Play, Recreation, Health and Well Being

Volume 9 of the series Geographies of Children and Young People pp 1-20

Date: Latest Version

Children’s Geographies for Activity and Play: An Overview of Measurement Approaches

  • Melody OliverAffiliated withHuman Potential Centre, Auckland University of Technology Email author 
  • , Stephanie SchoeppeAffiliated withSchool of Human, Health and Social Sciences, Physical Activity Research Group, Central Queensland University
  • , Suzanne MavoaAffiliated withSHORE and Whāriki Research Centre, School of Public Health, Massey UniversityMcCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing, School of Population and Global Health, the University of Melbourne
  • , Scott DuncanAffiliated withHuman Potential Centre, Auckland University of Technology
  • , Paul KellyAffiliated withPhysical Activity for Health Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences (SPEHS), University of Edinburgh Old College
  • , Phillip DonovanAffiliated withSHORE and Whāriki Research Centre, School of Public Health, Massey University
  • , Marketta KyttäAffiliated withDepartment of Real Estate, Planning and Geoinformatics, Aalto University


Physical activity is fundamental to child health and development. Evidence suggests that environmental features may promote or hinder children’s participation in physical activity, in particular active transport and independent mobility. To date, a clear understanding of the relationships between environmental factors and children’s activity behaviors remains equivocal. An essential component of understanding children’s geographies and related outcomes is the ability to accurately assess the environments and environmental features that matter to children. Current measures include geographic information systems-derived features, audits, user perceptions (via surveys), and photographic data collection. An overview of these measures is provided, including discussion on strengths, weaknesses, and implications for research.


Measure Physical activity Mobility Active transport Play Neighborhood Environment Objective Subjective