Perceived Benefits to Children from Participating in Different Types of Recreational Activities

Lynn A Barnett, John J. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Typically, the mother determines what extracurricular activities a child will be involved in, and the extent to which she or he participates. Thus, it is crucial to consider the perceptions of mothers when investigating the benefits that accrue to younger children from their participation in extracurricular recreational activities. The recreational participation of kindergarten through third grade children from two communities was explored, and mothers were asked about the benefits (if any) they perceived accrued to their child from participating. Results showed that vast majority of mothers believed that the significant positive benefits related to the development of character attributes, both in terms of the self and in how one treats others, came to their child from all four types of recreational activities. However, some perceived benefits were found to differ according to the type of activity (individual sports, team sports, performing, community) in which s/he participated. For example, an important benefit for children who participated in team or individual sports was improved social skills, while for those in performing arts or community programs, preparation for future involvement was reported.

The results have important practical implications. The findings may be used to provide evidence for the importance of recreational programs for children’s development to government officials and administrators who determine the size and scope of recreational program offerings. In addition, the results of this study provide data to support the importance of recreational programs based on outcomes (benefits). Benefits-based evaluation might provide an administrator with program outcome data that would prove to be very useful in determining the allocation of resources (personnel, fiscal) and in requesting increased resources for future expanded and targeted programming. From a marketing perspective, the study has identified what mothers perceive as the significant developmental benefits received by their children from participating in a range of recreational activities, which can then serve to inform educational efforts and campaigns to the public to increase participation, membership, and advocacy. Finally, identification by mothers of perceived differences in beneficial outcomes for the different activity types has implications for program evaluations that can be used by agencies in developing evaluation instruments that go beyond satisfaction levels (time, place, leadership, cost, etc.) associated with a program.?
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Park and Recreation Administration
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • children's recreational activities
  • recreation benefits
  • extracurricular activities


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