Research Study Abstract

Characterization of preschoolers’ active play opportunities at child care

  • Presented on May 21, 2014

Purpose: To examine opportunities for physical activity (PA) at child care and how they relate to the amount and intensity of PA.

Methods: 44 children (mean age 4.1 yrs, 57% girls) from 5 centers wore accelerometers and were observed for average 7.6 hours/ day (total 29 days). Observers coded activities into: 1) Not an active play opportunity, 2) nap time, 3) APO_outdoor free play, 4) APO_outdoor teacher-led, 5) APO_indoor free play, and 6) APO_indoor teacher-initiated. Accelerometer data was scored as sedentary, light, and moderate-to-vigorous.

Results: Overall children’s activity levels were 73% sedentary, 12% light and 14% MVPA. Mean MVPA was 52 minutes/day with 20% attaining > 60 minutes/day. For 68% of the child care day children were not offered active play opportunities and 19% of time was naptime. 44 minutes/day were active play opportunities. Of this, 0.4% of time was teacher-led outdoor play (34% sedentary, 14% light, 53% MVPA); 6.9% time outdoor free play (39% sedentary, 18% light, 43% MVPA), 3.6% time indoor teacher-led active play (56% sedentary, 14% light, 30% MVPA); 3.2% time indoor active free play (33% sedentary, 17% light, 50% MVPA).

Conclusions: 87% of child care time was not an opportunity for active play, so it is not surprising that children are sedentary for >70% of time. Teacher-led outdoor activities had the greatest intensity PA but constituted a small proportion of time. Strategies to increase PA at child care should include decreasing expectations for sedentary activities and be informed by research on which modifications would have greatest impact.