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INTRODUCTION Low parental education, hearing loss, premature birth, and several developmental disorders put children at risk for communication and/or language delays, which adversely affect social development and academic readiness. Our purpose was to characterize the outdoor free-play behaviors of children who are at risk of such delays to ultimately inform changes to the schoolyard environment which promote physical activity, social interaction, and language development. METHODS Children (N=16) in preschool or kindergarten who are at risk for communication and/or language delays were observed for a single day, which included one or two 30-minute recess periods, depending on whether the child attended for a half (n=7) or full (n=9) day. A direct observation protocol based on the Observational System for Recording Activity in Children and the Play Observation Scale was used wherein the focal child was observed for 5-sec, then data were recorded for 25-sec, resulting in one observation per 30-sec. Outcomes included physical activity level, type, context, group composition, play type, and conversation. RESULTS Children spent 61% of observations in total physical activity with walking (23%) and open space (48%) as the most common activity type and context, respectively. Most observations (79%) occurred in a social setting, primarily in a group with an adult (31%). Children engaged in functional play for 68% of the observations while 31% of observations included conversation. DISCUSSION Children's play was mostly social and active, similar to prior research in children without risk for communication and/or language delays. These data will be used to inform program-specific changes to the schoolyard environment. Similar observations conducted indoors could inform classroom redesign strategies

Publication Date



Logan, UT


developmental disorders, language delays, schoolyard activity, social interaction


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Schoolyard Activity of Children At Risk for Communication and/or Language Delays