Childcare centres urged to adopt new policy to boost kids’ physical activity

Childcare centres will be invited to help boost children’s physical activity levels by signing on to a new program which commits them to creating more opportunities for physical activity, including energetic play.

The Play Active Program developed by researchers from The University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute gives childcare centres clear guidance on how to achieve physical activity guidelines for the early years.

The Australian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years state young children should have three or more hours of physical activity per day, including energetic play, but lead researcher UWA Associate Professor Hayley Christian said only a third of children aged 2-5 years were achieving the recommended daily dose of physical activity.

Physical activity is essential for children’s health and development and is a really important behaviour to establish early on in life, but few young children are getting the daily physical activity they need”

“We know that kids need at least three hours of physical activity per day, preferably more, to be healthy and developing well.

“This should include lots of short, sharp bursts of energetic play throughout the day – activity that makes them huff and puff – as well as light intensity active play and lots of different types of explorative, imaginative active play.”

Associate Professor Christian said given that young children spent a lot of their time outside of the home at childcare, there was a real opportunity in those settings to help boost children’s daily physical activity levels, and in turn improve their health and development.

“The Australian National Quality Standard – which sets a national benchmark for the quality of education and care services – requires childcare centres and educators to promote physical activity and healthy eating, but in reality there’s little guidance as to how they should go about this,” she said.

“Many early childhood educators aren’t sure what the recommendations around physical activity are, let alone how to ensure they are met. So we saw a real need there for evidence-based guidance, training and support and that’s what we’ve sought to address in developing the Play Active program.”

The program includes a physical activity policy which sets out how much physical activity, sedentary time and screen time children should have when at childcare, and provides managers and educators with training, professional development, and resources to help achieve this

“This is an evidence-informed policy that’s been guided by data we’ve collected throughout Australia,” Associate Professor Christian said.

“Importantly, it comes with a practical resources guide which includes lots of tips and advice that will help services to implement the policy, to allow children to be active as often as possible throughout each day.”

The policy will be available in Perth initially and then rolled out to all of WA and to other states.