Active for Life is studying the benefits of physical literacy programming for the early years

How does having physical literacy programming in child care centres benefit children? That’s the question The Early Years Physical Literacy Research Team are trying to answer with a new study that kicked off this fall in 22 child care settings in Alberta and British Columbia.

Why is the study important?

There is a good deal of research focusing on the importance of physical activity for school-aged kids and youth but not much about preschoolers. Perhaps that is because it is widely assumed that young children are active by nature. But we know that this just isn’t true anymore. Yes, being active in the early years is critical for the overall development of our children. Here are four reasons why this study is important:

Did you know?

One-third of Canadian preschool children are either overweight or obese. Young children spend an average of 7.5 hours daily being sedentary; for some children that is half of their waking day! Only 15% of preschool children meet the guidelines for less than one hour of screen time per day.

Set healthy habits early in life

The early years, between birth and five, set the trajectory for the rest of a child’s life; therefore, healthy lifestyles need to be developed during this time. It is important to gather solid evidence about how physical activity and physical literacy can be supported during the early years and the benefits for the healthy development of a child.

Child care is the right setting

Many young children spend much of their day in child care. Regular opportunities for physical activity and physical literacy in child care may increase preschool children’s motivation, confidence, and competence to move for a lifetime, thus potentially reducing health risks later in life.

Active play prepares children for school

Being active may improve young children’s readiness for school by increasing their executive function and self-regulation skills. Physically active preschoolers may also develop more confidence, persistence, creativity, and resilience.

Healthy start leads to a healthy life

When young children are not physically active, they are at risk for a range of diseases later in life such as Type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and immune disorders. Children who are physically inactive may be more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and poor self-esteem.

The Early Years Physical Literacy Research Team, working with B2ten and Active for Life, have developed a ‘proof of concept’ study with 22 child care settings in Alberta and British Columbia. The goal of this study is to gather evidence of the potential benefits to young children when they have physical literacy programming in child care.

In this study we will:

  • Support early childhood educators to provide quality physical literacy programming.
  • Measure benefits to children in areas of cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.
  • Share results broadly with policymakers, educators, and families.

AfL has created a special page for updates on this study. Watch this space for updates on the study as we share what we are learning!


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