Early childhood settings urged to adopt new policy and get children moving
Early childhood settings have been invited to engage with Play Active, a new program designed by researchers to create more opportunities for physical activity, including energetic play to boost children’s physical activity levels.
The Play Active Program, developed by researchers from The University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Telethon Kids Institute gives early childhood settings clear guidance on how to achieve physical activity guidelines for the early years, based on recommendations from the Australian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years.
Despite the guidelines stating that young children should have three or more hours of physical activity per day, including energetic play, lead researcher UWA Associate Professor Hayley Christian said only a third of children aged two to five years were achieving the recommended daily dose of physical activity.
Physical activity, she said, is essential for children’s health and development and is “a really important behaviour to establish early on in life.”
“We know that children 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.”
Given that young children spend a lot of their time outside of the home, attending early childhood settings, there is “a real opportunity” in those settings, Associate Professor Christian said, to help boost children’s daily physical activity levels, and in turn improve their health and development.
While the National Quality Standard sets a national benchmark in requiring services to promote physical activity and healthy eating, in reality there’s little guidance as to how they should go about this, she added.
“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 these goals.
“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,” Associate Professor Christian said.
The policy will be available in Perth initially and then rolled out to all of WA and to other states.
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