National trial to support physical activity in ECEC
The Sector > Provider > General News > National trial will explore ways to boost physical activity in young children

National trial will explore ways to boost physical activity in young children

by Freya Lucas

April 24, 2024

More than 80,000 Australian children are expected to benefit as 700 early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings across the country trial a new program aimed at boosting declining physical activity levels.


Australia is currently sitting on a D- for children’s physical activity – a statistic that hasn’t changed since 2015, and as such, the Play Active program has been initiated in response to statistics which show that only one in ten Australian children aged between three and five years are getting the recommended amount of daily energetic play. 


Children in the three to five years age bracket should be getting three or more hours of physical activity per day, according to the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years, which includes 60 minutes of energetic play, however only one in ten young children are achieving this.


Play Active has been developed by the Telethon Kids Institute using 10 years of research and through working closely with the ECEC sector, and centres on helping early childhood educators to support children to be more active while attending ECEC. 


It is modelled on Play Active partner Cancer Council WA’s SunSmart program for ECEC services and provides a service-tailored physical activity policy, free professional development, and resources and tips on how to build more opportunities for energetic play into the day.


The national launch of the trial was held in Perth yesterday, led by Professor Hayley Christian AM from the Child Physical Activity, Health and Development team at Telethon Kids Institute, Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education Dr Anne Aly and WA Minister for Early Childhood Education Sabine Winton.


Professor Christian – also a National Heart Foundation Fellow and Professor with the School of Population and Global Health at The University of Western Australia – said the early years were a critical period for promoting physical activity, with ECEC services “providing the ideal setting for targeting strategies aimed at increasing levels of activity in children.”


“Given young children spend a lot of time in childcare (sic.), there is a huge opportunity here to increase their physical activity levels, in particular energetic play that gets them huffing and puffing,” Professor Christian said.


“Play Active is all about ensuring kids get those vital bursts of ‘huff and puff’ play throughout the day, every day.”


The program, previously trialled in a successful pilot study with 81 Perth centres, is being rolled out nationally with support from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). Added support from the WA Government’s health promotion agency, Healthway, will ensure equitable access to Play Active among priority populations throughout WA.


The national rollout will start in Queensland and South Australia, with Play Active aiming to reach hundreds of ECEC settings across all states and territories over the next four years.


Play Active has partnered with a range of Australian ECEC and other organisations and service providers to undertake the trial.


Play Active’s partners include Early Childhood Australia, Australian Childcare Alliance WA, Australian Childcare Alliance QLD, Australian Childcare Alliance SA, Goodstart Early Learning, YMCA WA, Sonas Early Learning, Sagewood Early Learning, the WA Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, Health and Wellbeing Queensland, Play Australia, Cancer Council WA, Nature Play WA, and Play Matters Collective.


As the trial progresses, the research team will evaluate how well Play Active is implemented across different states and territories, and the longer term effectiveness of the program for increasing young children’s physical activity.


ECEC services who are keen to learn more or be part of the program are invited to sign up at

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