A comparison of children's play and non-play behavior before and after schoolyard greening monitored by video observations

Janke E. van Dijk-Wesselius, Jolanda Maas, Mark van Vugt, Agnes E. van den Berg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper investigates the impact of greening schoolyards on children's (age 7-11) play and non-play behavior during recess. Five primary schools in The Netherlands took part in a longitudinal prospective intervention study using a pre-post design with a baseline and two-year follow-up. At baseline, all schoolyards were paved. Between baseline and follow-up all schools greened their schoolyards. During recess at baseline and follow-up, the play behavior of children in grades 4, 5 and 6 in different target areas was videotaped with multiple cameras and afterwards coded using the cognitive play categories and non-play categories of the Play Observation Scale (Rubin, 2001). Video recordings of 352 children at baseline, and 325 children in 66 target areas at follow-up, were divided in equal time frames of 30 seconds. Each child's behavior was coded at the 30th second of the time frame, yielding a dataset of 17046 observations. Results show an increase in observed play, as compared to non-play, behavior, after greening. Furthermore, there was an increase in games-with-rules, a small increase in constructive and explorative play behavior, and a decrease in passive non-play behaviors. This impact of greening was stronger for girls compared to boys. These findings strengthen the empirical basis for greening schoolyards by providing data from a large scale quantitative study with a controlled, longitudinal pre-post design.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101760
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Early online date21 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) , grant PRO 4-18 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Green space
  • Natural environment
  • Nature and health
  • Nature-based Interventions


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