Before you spend a fortune on brand-new playground equipment, consider this: researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia found kids benefit more from simple, cheap items such as buckets and crates than they do traditional playground equipment.

The two-year study analyzed the play differences of elementary school children who used different playgrounds, finding that everyday items boost creativity and help children remain active while at recess.

Results were published in the international journal BMC Public Health.

The study looked at 120 students ages 5 through 12 from the newly constructed Emmaus Catholic Primary School in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. Buckets, pipes, exercise mats, hay bales and swimming pool noodles were added to the school's playground, and researchers tracked the children's behavior.

The results were compared to a group of about 150 children from another area school whose playground featured traditional equipment such as slides and monkey bars.

Researchers found introducing children to "simple, everyday objects" on the playground at lunchtime or during recess not only improved creativity, it also boasted social and problem-solving skills and "cut sedentary behavior by half." The traditional playground, in comparison, was found to stifle active play that used imagination. Students who played with the everyday objects took 13 more steps per minute and played "more intensively and vigorously" than the children on the traditional playground.

"Conventional playgrounds are designed by adults -- they don't actually take into consideration how the children want to play," said lead researcher Dr. Brendon Hyndman of the School of Medical Sciences.

"These results could be applied to anywhere that children play and shift the debate on the best way to keep our children healthy," Hyndman added.