Children’s indoor and outdoor play as potential correlates of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran: a brief report on national survey

Mohsen Rajabi, G. Ali Afrooz, Gulfisha Qureshi, André Pombo

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5 Citations (SciVal)


Over the past 16 months, Iranian children have had their schools closed. Prolonged COVID-19-related restrictions and limited play activities can have significant mental health consequences in children. Using a cross-sectional design, a sample of Iranian parents (n = 1182) of children aged between 5 and 11 years completed an online survey including: Children's Play Scale (CPS), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Short Form (I-PANAS-SF), and the Strength and Difficulties Questionaries (SDQ). Parents reported that their child spent significantly longer time playing outside at home and inside at home than anywhere else. Children were also reported to spend the minimum number of hours at indoor play centres, near water, green spaces, and playgrounds. Compared to the pre-COVID-19 context, significant declines in outdoor play activities during the pandemic were reported for 83% of children. Findings revealed that there are significant but small negative correlation between mental health difficulties and total CPS scores (r = −.427, p <.0001). Correlations of CPS scores with Positive and Negative affect were weak but significant (r =.211, and r = −.294, respectively; p <.0001). Results indicate that it is necessary to find strategies to increase children's outdoor play activities, especially when they return to their schools with wider-spread social and emotional needs than before.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-447
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Play
Issue number4
Early online date21 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank the participants of this study without whom the study would not have been accomplished. MR designed the study and led data collection. MR did the statistical analysis and GA interpreted findings. MR, GA, and GQ wrote the first draft of the article. GA and AP provided support in editing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • children
  • COVID-19
  • Indoor play
  • mental health
  • outdoor play
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology


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