Playability – Independent Outdoor Play for 10-13 year olds

The State of Play: Socio-ecological perspectives on children’s outdoor play


The Playability study sought to understand what motivates children 10 to 13 years old to play outside independently (without adult supervision) and their parents to allow or encourage them to do this. This study examined how the physical outdoor environment (e.g., traffic calming, bike lanes) and as social environment (e.g., norms of children playing outside) influenced children’s outdoor play and independent mobility. The goal of this study was to develop an index of the playability for neighbourhoods – similar to the walkability index. The playability index will be useful for designing child friendly neighbourhood environments that meet children’s needs and wants.

105 children between 10 and 13 years old, and 135 parents in 3 neighbourhoods in Metro Vancouver participated in the Playability study. Children wore a GPS monitor and a physical activity tracker to track their whereabouts and physical activities for a week. They completed a daily diary, drew a map of their neighbourhood and took us on a tour of their neighbourhood.

Each participating parent talked to us about how they see their neighbourhood in terms of letting their child go play outside without supervision.

See our infographics on why playing outdoors is so important for children. [link]

Follow-up interviews

Child and parent participants from the initial phase of the study are invited to participate in follow-up interviews to help us develop a deeper understanding of how changes in both the physical outdoor and social environment have influenced children’s outdoor play and independent mobility. These interviews will also enable us to explore how an individual child’s perceptions and attitudes towards outdoor play have changed since the initial phase and have been implemented in their present lives.

Funding information

Generously supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research 2016-2020


Bauer, M.E.E., Brussoni, M., & Han, C. (2022). Children’s Play in Natural Environments and Their Development of Microcultures:” We Were Born in the Wilderness”. Children, Youth and Environments, 32(2), 112-124. [link]

Hutton, D., Herrington, S., & Brussoni, M. (2022). Seven Cs for Tweens: Design Principles for Children Aged 10-13 in the Urban Landscape. Children, Youth and Environments, 32(2), 1-34. [link]

Han, C.S., Brussoni, M., & Mâsse, L.C. (2022). Parental Autonomy Support in the Context of Parent–Child Negotiation for Children’s Independent Mobility: ‘I Always Feel Safer With My Parents’ to ‘Boom! Bust Down Those Walls!’ The Journal of Early Adolescence. [link]

Riazi, N., Brussoni, M., Vertinsky, P., & Faulkner, G. (2021). “Well, you feel more responsible when you’re unsupervised”: Exploring family perspectives on children’s independent mobility. Children, 8(3), 225. [link]

Han, C.S., Lin, Y., Mâsse, L.C., Brussoni, M. (2020). “There’s kind of a wall I have to stay inside of”: A qualitative understanding of children’s independent mobility range, destination, time and expansion. Children, Youth and Environments, 30(2), 97-118. [link]

Brussoni, M., Lin, Y., Han, C., Janssen, I., Schuurman, N., Boyes, R., . . . Mâsse, L. C. (2020). A qualitative investigation of unsupervised outdoor activities for 10- to 13-year-old children: “I like adventuring but I don’t like adventuring without being careful”. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 70, 101460. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2020.101460 [link]

Lambert, A., Vlaar, J., Herrington, S., & Brussoni, M. (2019). What is the relationship between the neighbourhood built environment and time spent in outdoor play? A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health, 16(20). E3840. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16203840 [link]

Vlaar, J., Brussoni, M., Janssen, I., Mâsse, L.C. (2019). Roaming the neighbourhood: Environmental and parental influences on children’s territorial range. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(17), 3129. [link]

Han, C., Mâsse, L.C., Wilson, A., Janssen, I., Schuurman, N., Brussoni, M., & The Playability Study Research Team. (2018). State of play: Methodologies for investigating children’s outdoor play and independent mobility. Children, Youth & Environments, 28(2), 194-231. doi: 10.7221/chilyoutenvi.28.2.0194 [link]

Yee, C., Yuen, C., Pang, I., & Gugliemi, S – under the supervision Dr. Nadine Schuurman. (2018). Geography 455 – SFU Mapping Playability project. [link]