Physical environments, policies and practices for physical activity and screen-based sedentary behaviour among preschoolers within child care centres in Melbourne, Australia and Kingston, Canada

Child Care Health Dev. 2015 Jan;41(1):132-8. doi: 10.1111/cch.12156. Epub 2014 Jun 6.


Background: Characteristics of preschool and child care centres have previously been shown to be associated with children's health behaviours such as physical activity and screen-based sedentary behaviour. This paper investigates differences in physical environments, policies and practices between child care centres in Melbourne, Australia and Kingston, Canada which may be associated with such behaviours.

Methods: Audits of child care centres were undertaken by trained research assistants for the Healthy Active Preschool and Primary Years (Melbourne, Australia; n = 136) study and the Healthy Living Habits in Pre-School Children (Kingston, Canada; n = 46) study. Twenty-one of the audit items (nine physical environment; 12 policies and practices) were assessed in both samples. Example items included outdoor play and shaded areas, availability of equipment, physical activity instruction for children and staff, opportunities to use electronic media and staff/child interaction during physical activity time. Analyses were completed using SAS version 9.2.

Results: Compared with Australian centres, a higher per cent of Canadian centres had a formal physical activity policy, reported children sat more frequently for 30 min or more and allowed children to watch television. A higher per cent of Australian centres provided an indoor area for physical activity, shade outdoors and physical activity education to staff. Children in Australian centres had access to more fixed play equipment and spent more time outdoors than in Canadian centres.

Conclusions: These findings may help inform the development of best practice and policy guidelines to enhance opportunities for healthy levels of physical activity and screen-based sedentary behaviour within child care centres in both countries.

Keywords: child care environment; physical activity; preschool children; screen-based sedentary behaviour.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Day Care Centers / organization & administration*
  • Child Day Care Centers / standards
  • Child, Preschool
  • Computers / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Environment Design*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Management Audit
  • Motor Activity*
  • Ontario
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Staff Development / methods
  • Staff Development / standards
  • Television / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • Victoria
  • Workforce