Patterns of physical activity among preschoolers in a childcare setting: a pilot study

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Morgan Jones (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Lenka Shriver

Abstract: The rates of children’s physical activity (PA) have declined over the past several decades in the U.S. While the increased number of women entering the workforce has led to more children than ever before attending childcare centers, studies examining PA have largely focused on school-aged children so far. Currently, there is some knowledge in the existing literature on the amount of PA among preschoolers, but the knowledge is so far very limited. The main purpose of this study was to assess the amount and specific patterns of PA of preschool-aged children in a childcare setting. The second purpose of the study was to examine personal, environmental, and policy factors that have been proposed to influence PA in a childcare setting. A list of 98 five-star childcare centers in Guilford County was compiled and three childcare centers were randomly selected for potential participation in the study (1 agreed to participate). The amount and patterns of children’s PA were measured using accelerometers. The multi-level factors related to PA within the childcare setting were assessed using the Environmental Policy Assessment and Observation tool (EPAO), in-depth interviews with the center director and informal interviews with teachers (guided by the Social Cognitive Theory). An Actigraph GT3x accelerometer was placed on each child upon arrival and removed during pickup from the childcare center to measure total PA. Sixty-eight percent of children met the recommendation of at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous PA a day (MVPA). The childcare center’s PA environment was scored at 18.7/20, indicating a very positive PA environment. Using a manual content analysis, several themes emerged from the interview with the center’s director: 1) awareness of PA importance on learning, growth, and health; 2) importance of buy-in from parents and teachers/staff; 3) the need for PA policy to be in place; 4) knowledge of PA recommendations; 5) lack of gym access perceived as a main barrier. The field interviews with teachers generated the following themes: 1) strong awareness of the importance of PA for children’s learning, growth and overall health; 2) equipment, space and time perceived as the major facilitators of PA; 3) focus on safety perceived as major barrier to teacher participation in PA with children; 4) low PA among teachers due to lack of time in their schedules; and 5) confusion about current PA recommendations for young children. Most children in the sample met the minimum PA recommendations. Our findings highlight the importance of a positive environment, with childcare staff being aware of the importance of PA for children during the day. Further studies should assess both the PA environment and the social climate related to PA across childcare centers in order to make individualized improvements and thus optimize children’s PA across childcare centers.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Accelerometer, Environment, Physical activity, Preschool, Sedentary
Physical education for children $x Study and teaching (Preschool)
Preschool children $x Health and hygiene
Exercise for children $x Health aspects

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