The intersection of physical activity opportunities and the role of early childhood educators during outdoor play: Perceptions and reality
Dyment, J and Coleman, B, The intersection of physical activity opportunities and the role of early childhood educators during outdoor play: Perceptions and reality, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 37, (1) pp. 90-98. ISSN 1836-9391 (2012) [Refereed Article]
With a view to tackling the growing obesity epidemic in young children, a number of interventions are being trialled at preschools seeking to engage children in more physical activity. In this paper, we add to this knowledge by exploring the actual and perceived physical activity levels of preschoolers during outside playtime as well as the actual and perceived role of early childhood educators in facilitating physical activity opportunities during outdoor play. Over a 30-day period in July 2009, 16 preschoolers at four preschools in Australia were observed for 50 minutes while in the playground. During each minute of observation, the preschoolers' intensity of physical activity (Sedentary, Moderate, Vigorous) and the role of the educator (Teacher Initiated/ Child Responsive Activities, Teacher Initiated/Directed Work, Child Initiated/Teacher Responsive Activities, Child Initiated/Child Directed Activities) were recorded. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 16 educators to ascertain their perceptions of the physical activity levels of preschoolers as well as their role during outside playtime. Results reveal that the children were engaged in Sedentary physical activity in almost half the observations (46.1%). Most of the time, preschoolers were engaged in Child Initiated/Child Directed Activities (85.5%). The interviews revealed that educators perceived preschoolers to be getting adequate amounts of physical activity. They also revealed that the educators felt a need to prioritise supervision and safety over the provision of physical activity opportunities. This paper concludes with a discussion of these findings and suggestions to enable educators to engage children in more physical activity opportunities. These strategies should be considered alongside a range of other interventions that are being used to enhance the physical activity behaviours of preschoolers.
early childhood teachers, obesity in children, children, ealth and hygiene, early childhood education, activity programs, career development