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Ability to be active: exploring children’s active play in primary schools

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journal contribution
posted on 19.06.2015, 12:27 authored by Rachel SandfordRachel Sandford, Rebecca Duncombe, Carolynne MasonCarolynne Mason, Carly Butler
This paper presents findings from an innovative multi-method study which sought to examine the impact of toys and toy substitutes on children’s physical activity levels in two UK primary schools. Accelerometers were used to record the physical activity levels of 52 Year 3 pupils (aged 7-8 years) during four separate 30-minute play sessions and, for comparison, during other periods of the school day (breaks, lunch-times and PE lessons). Qualitative data were generated through observations, field notes and semi-structured focus groups with pupils. The findings suggest that a relatively short session of unstructured active play with toys or toy substitutes can make an important contribution to a child’s daily level of physical activity. Moreover, they reveal that children’s enjoyment of play sessions and their creative, physical and social competence are also important influences on their engagement in, and with active, play. Some implications for policy, practice and future research are discussed.


The authors acknowledge the support and funding by the British Toy and Hobby Association.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

International Journal of Play


SANDFORD, R.A. et al., 2015. Ability to be active: exploring children’s active play in primary schools. International Journal of Play, 4(2), pp.149-162.


© Taylor & Francis


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

Publication date



This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Play on 05 Oct 2015, available online: