Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Daycare and Movement Experiences

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion


In Canada 21.8% of children aged 0-5 were in regulated childcare space in 2010 (CBC News, 2013). This translates to on average 867,194 Canadian children (between 6 months and 5 years) spending 25 hours/ week in daycare facilities (Bushnik, 2006). The areas of child development daycares focus on tend to be academic and social goals with high quality physical activity and movement experiences being neglected, for a variety of reasons (Connor & Temple, 2005). Physical activity has many health benefits including the prevention and reduction of overweight and obesity (Warburton et al., 2006). This is especially relevant because recent studies indicate that between 26%-30% of Canadian preschoolers are overweight or obese (Canning et al. 2004). Fundamental movement skills are also a concern as many critical periods for development pass during the period of daycare and many skills aren’t given enough attention (Taggart & Keegan, 1997). The childcare center is an ideal setting in which to implement strategies to promote healthy weight because its environments (both physical and social) and policies and practices can significantly influence children’s dietary and physical activity behaviours (Story, Kaphingst, & French, 2006). Especially since the habits surrounding this modifiable risk factor are laid down in early childhood, daycare is the optimal location to promote active and healthy living (Reilly, 2008). Within the day care setting the interaction of a wide range of factors result in the physical activity behaviour of the children, including the amount of indoor and outdoor play space, equipment and toys to the group size and caregiver ratio (de Schipper, 2006). Permeating all aspects of the environment is the education and training of the staff and the program’s policies and practices (de Schipper, 2006). Government regulations provide minimum standards for aspects of the play environment and limited programming (Child Care Canada, 2012). Other important factors include the attitudes and predispositions of the parents and children involved in day care settings (Connor & Temple, 2005).

  • Items that are bolded can be found in the definitions section for explanation

Physical Activity Guidelines

The following are standards for physical activity and types of play children 0-5 (preschool age) should engage in for optimal physical development (NASPE, 2002).

Guidelines for Infants:

Guideline 1: Infants should interact with caregivers in daily physical activities that are dedicated to exploring movement and the environment

Guideline 2: Caregivers should place infants in settings that encourage and stimulate movement experiences and active play for short periods of time several times a day

Guideline 3: Infants’ physical activity should promote skill development in movement

Guideline 4: Infants should be placed in an environment that meets or exceeds recommended safety standards for performing large muscle activities

Guideline 5: Those in charge of infants’ wellbeing are responsible for understanding the importance of physical activity and should promote movement skills by providing opportunities for structured and unstructured physical activity

Guidelines for Toddlers:

Guideline 1: Toddlers should engage in at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity each day

Guideline 2: Toddlers should engage in at least 60 minutes and up to several hours per day of unstructured physical activity and should not be sedentary for more then 60 minutes at a time except when sleeping

Guideline 3: Toddlers should have access to indoor and outdoor areas that meet or exceed recommended safety standards for performing large-muscle activities

Guideline 4: Toddlers should have access to indoor and outdoor areas that meat or exceed recommended safety standards for performing large muscle activities

Guideline 5: Those in charge of toddlers’ well being are responsible for understanding the importance of physical activity and promoting movement skills by providing opportunities for structured and unstructured physical activity and movement experiences.

Guidelines for Preschoolers:

Guideline 1: Preschoolers should accumulate at least 60 minutes daily of structured physical activity.

Guideline 2: Preschoolers should engage in at least 60 minutes and up to several hours of daily, unstructured physical activity and should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time except when sleeping.

Guideline 3: Preschoolers should develop competence in movement skills that are building blocks for more complex movement tasks.

Guideline 4: Preschoolers should have indoor and outdoor areas that meet or exceed recommended safety standards for performing large muscle activities.

Guideline 5: Individuals responsible for the well-being of preschoolers should be aware of the importance of physical activity and facilitate the child’s movement skills.

Government Regulations

Exact regulations for childcare facilities vary slightly from province to province (Child Care Canada, 2012). All provinces/territories include specific requirements for meters of indoor and outdoor play space per child (Child Care Canada, 2012). All daycares of certain daily duration must provide safe and regulated outdoor play environments (Child Care Canada 2012). Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta do not have specific requirements on physical activity related programming (Child Care Canada 2012). For the other provinces/territories the regulations express a necessity for a certain amount of outdoor playtime per day (Child Care Canada, 2012). Some limited instruction is included such as that children must have to opportunity to engage in physical activity, have a developmentally appropriate level of play and must engage in physical activity that promotes proficiency in running and climbing (Child Care Canada, 2012). No specific instructions are given for periods of structured vs. unstructured play, for different equipment, time spans and activities for different age groups, limits on sedentary/ screen time (Child Care Canada, 2012). There are no regulation of activities to facilitate development of fundamental movement skills and motor milestones (Child Care Canada, 2012).

Current Issues in Canadian Daycares

In an analysis of Calgary daycare centers Anderson et al. (2008) found that only 14% of children participated in the minimum NASPE recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity per day. In London Ontario it was found that 45% of daycare children where insufficiently active (Van Zardvoort et al., 2011). Although the numbers do fluctuate, inactivity in Canadian daycares is a wide spread problem. The majority of the children’s play was also unstructured compared to an even split of unstructured and structured play (Anderson et al., 2008). This is a concern as structured play in daycare settings has been associated with increased mastery of fundamental motor skills (Taggart & Keegan, 1997). However, it has also been noted by childcare professionals that observing children during unstructured play allows them to become aware of the children’s preference and design the indoor and outdoor environments to compliment their physical activity interests (Cashmore & Jones, 2008). It was also found that caregiver’s lacked the education and/or the motivation to facilitate structured physical play and to extend and enrich the child’s play opportunities (Anderson et al., 2008). Parents also rely on daycare to ensure that their children participate enough daily physical activity when this is clearly not the case (Tucker et al., 2006).

Factors Affecting Physical Activity in Daycare


Although the amount of indoor and outdoor space per child is regulated by the government several studies have found that this isn’t adequate for physical activity (Van Zandvoort et al., 2010). Many facilities don’t have a specific space for indoor physical activity so on days where the weather restricts outdoor play there is no alternative and gross motor behaviours are sacrificed (Cashmore et al., 2008).


In full day daycare although two hours a day is set aside for outside play the staff must dress and undress the children during winter weather conditions (Van Zandzoort et al., 2010). This time is not compensated for by spending more time outside and no more time is allocated indoors for physical activity (Van Zandzoort et al., 2010). Also, during inclement weather conditions when outdoor playtime is impossible there isn’t adequate space to engage in gross motor activities inside (Van Zandvoort et al., 2010). This leads to significant seasonally fluctuations in physical activity (Van Zandzoort et al., 2010).

Play Equipment

Staff at day care facilities have reported inadequate quality and quantity of physical activity related equipment in both indoor and outdoor play areas (Van Zandvoort et al., 2010). When the outdoor space used by the daycare is public, for reasons of location or funding, it was found that often the equipment was inappropriate for the ages and abilities of the children or it was vandalized, unsafe and in general disrepair (Cashmore & Jones, 2008). These points are very relevant as Dowda et al. (2009) found that preschoolers who had access to larger playgrounds and more pieces of non-fixed equipment were likely to be active than their counterparts with less space and equipment.


Parents can be a major barrier to adequate physical activity for their children in the day care setting, although inadvertently (Cashmore & Jones, 2008). For instance due to safety concerns parents have restricted neighborhood walks and field trips limiting the variety and ease that the daycare can engage the children in a novel and entertaining physical activity (Cashmore & Jones, 2008). It was also noted that they sometimes fail to provide children with adequate clothing either against the elements or dress their children in fine clothes that they don’t want ruined (O’Connor & Temple, 2005). It was also found that parents are more concerned with academic and social pursuits at day care and do not inquire about the policies and practices of physical activity at daycare centers (O’Connor & Temple, 2005). Cultural beliefs have also been a barrier, in one example a daycare developed a dancing physical activity programs but Muslim families attending the daycare disapproved as dancing is seen by the Muslim faith as a sexualizing act not appropriate for children (Cashmore & Jones, 2008).

The Children

Children of different ages provide challenges for caregivers in the physical activity setting (O’ Connor & Temple, 2005). The older children must be kept quiet during periods where babies are asleep as well as periods of outdoor time are restricted by those of younger ages (O’ Connor & Temple, 2005). Children who are overweight/obese when entering daycare and accustomed to sedentary activities are difficult to motivate and include in group physical activity (Cashmore & Jones, 2008).

Education of Caregivers

Care givers feel that they require a greater level of education to adequately provide movement opportunities to their charges (Anderson et al. 2008). They need enough resources and education to be flexible and keep children interested and constantly involved in activities (Cashmore & Jones, 2008). Lack of education also leads to a lack of understanding as to how much physical activity is really needed for the children (Cashmore & Jones, 2008).

Safety and Regulations

For safety concerns certain daycares are no longer allowed to visit the public pool, and may not go for neighborhood walks unless on the way to a specific field trip (Van Zandvoort et al. 2010). In many daycares there are no specific physical activity regulations or expectations within the centers besides the government regulation of 2 hours of outdoor play time (Van Zandvoort et al. 2010).


Caregivers noticed that children were naturally physically active in the presence of music, whether it was an organized dance time or that they got up and danced when music was present in a movie (Van Zandvoort, et al. 2010). They felt that this should be included in a physical activity program because the children where intrinsically engaged (Van Zandvoort et al. 2010).

Attitude of the Caregiver

In a study of caregivers in the daycare setting by Van Zandvoort (2010) it was found that 56% felt physical activity was an important part of their own lives and 96% felt that it was very important for preschoolers to be physically active. 96% were also interested and receptive to being supplied with physical activity resources (Van Zandvoort et al. 2010). Caregivers had also noted that if they and their colleagues were engaged in physical activity the children would join and stay engaged longer than if the staff members did not (Van Zandvoort et al. 2010). Independently it was found that children participate in fundamental movement skills for longer when an adult is present (Taggart & Keegan, 1997).


Large daycare facilities tend to have a small library of binders and manuals on physical activities for groups for both indoor and outdoor environments (Van Zandvoort et al. 2010). Caregivers also cited the Internet, occasional workshops and each other as resources for activities. They stated it was a challenge to keep children interested and that they must constantly be developing new activities using the same environments working with a limited budget (Van Zandvoort et al. 2010).

Suggestions for Future Improvement

Several studies have developed many ideas for improvement of physical activity in daycare through formal focus group discussions with day care center professionals (Anderson et al., 2008; Cashmore & Jones 2008; O’Conner & Temple, 2005; Tucker et al., 2011; Van Zandvoort et al. 2010). The suggestion was made that centers should hold specialty education workshops for children’s dance, yoga, how to use music in the physical activity setting (Tucker et al., 2011). Large daycare centers should also have a specialized physical activity caregiver to provide higher quality physical activity experiences, to educate other staff members and to be used as a resource (Tucker et al. 2011). It was also suggested that a specialist on space usage should consult large day care centers so employees can best learn how to use available space to their advantage (Tucker et al., 2011). One example was given of an employee learning to use the facilities empty hallways as a space for gross motor activities when outdoor play wasn’t possible (Tucker et al. 2011). In a study by Anderson et al. (2008) it was found that many day care professionals feel that not enough emphasis is put on physical education during their certification and that more course work should be relegated to learning the importance of physical activity and how to integrate physical activity into the daycare setting. Daycare providers also placed an emphasis on the importance of increased funding specifically for physical activity related equipment, toys, training, increased activity space (small gymnasiums) and resources (Zanvoort et al. 2011).

Resources for Caregivers

Information on the importance of structured physical play: Ideas for outdoor play activities (structured and unstructured): Games to play with a parachute: Affordances in the home environment for motor development: Though this is outside the home environment it may help day care professionals to evaluate the play space for different developmental ages and identify and rectify weaknesses. Kids dance workout videos (free):

Information for Parents

Importance of physical activity for children: Inquire if the day care meets NASPE guidelines for physical development:


Critical Periods: the optimal time for emergence of certain developmental processes and behaviors (Gabbard, 2012)

Fundamental movement skills: a common motor activity that has specific movement patterns that develops though different stages to a level of maturity and form the foundation of more advanced and specific movement activity ie: specific sports skills. (Gabbard, 2012)

Gross Motor Skills: movements and patterns that involve large muscles the body that enable behaviors such as running, kicking, throwing, climbing etc. (Gabbard, 2012)

Motor Milestones: are the acquisition of motor behaviors that develop in a certain order throughout early life that are required for interaction and locomotion within an environment (Gabbard, 2012). For example: an infant must be able to hold up its head before it can sit, and it must be able to stand before it can walk (Gabbard, 2012)

Structured Play: intentionally initiated, directed and controlled by an adult and can occur in an indoor or outdoor environment (Healthy and Active Play 2014) Benefits of Structured Play: cooperative play, teamwork, sportsmanship, following directions and strategy (The Strong, 2014). Examples: Simon Says, Follow the Leader and any organized sport activity (The Strong, 2014).

Unstructured Play: any form of play a child engages in (independently or in a group) that is not directed/initiated by an adult (Healthy and Active Play, 2014). It can be physical or sedentary and can occur in an indoor or outdoor play space (Healthy and Active Play, 2014). Benefits of Unstructured Play: self-regulation, conflict negation, problem solving, social emotional ground, persistence, resilience, collaboration (The Strong, 2014)

Examples: child initiated playground games, make believe, free play with sports equipment (Healthy and Active Play, 2014)


Anderson, L. Clark, L. Eskerod, K., Francis, M., & Shaw A. (2008). Physical Activity of Preschool aged children in childcare settings final report. Retrieved from

Canadian Sport for Life, (2011). Fundamental Movement Skills, Retrieved from

Canning, PM, M.L. Courage, and L.M. Frizzell. (2004). Prevalence of overweight and obesity in a provincial population of Canadian preschool children. Canadian Medical Association Journal 171, no. 3: 240–42.

Cashmore, A. W., & Jones, S. C. (2008). Growing up active: A study into physical activity in long day care centers. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 23(2), 179-191. doi:10.1080/02568540809594654

CBC News (2013).Child care by the numbers. Retrieved from

Child Care Canada. (2012). Legislated Requirements for outdoor play/ environment and physical activity. Retrieved from

de Schipper, E. J., & Riksen-Walraven, J. M. (2006). Effects of child-caregiver ratio on the interactions between caregivers and children in child-care centers: An experimental study.Child Development, 77(4), 861-874. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00907.x

Dowda, M., W.H. Brown, K.L. McIver, K.A. Pfeiffer, J.R. O’Neill, C.L. Addy, and R.R. Pate.(2009). Policies and characteristics of the preschool environment and physical activity of young children. Pediatrics 123, no. 2: e261–66.

Gabbard, C. (2012). Lifelong motor development. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Healthy and Active Preschoolers. (2014). Active Physical Play (Module 4). Retrieved from

National Association for Sport and Physical Education. (2002). Active start: A statement of physical activity guidelines for children birth to five years. Retrieved from

O’Connor, J., & Temple, V. (2005). Constraints and facilitators for physical activity in family day care. (2005). Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 30(4), 1.

Reilly, J.J. (2008). Physical activity, sedentary behavior and energy balance in the preschool child: Opportunities for early obesity prevention. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 67:317–25.

Story, M., Kaphingst, K. M., & French, S. (2006). The role of child care settings in obesity prevention. The Future of Children, 16(1), 143-168.

Taggart, A., & Keegan, L. (1997). Developing fundamental movement skills in outdoor settings: Three case studies of children playing. ACHPER Healthy Lifestyles Joumal, 44(4), 11-17.

The Strong. (2014). Free Play and Structured Play. Retrieved from

Tucker, P., Irwin, J. D., Sangster Bouck, L. M., He, M., & Pollett, G. (2006). Preventing pediatric obesity; recommendations from a community-based qualitative investigation. Obesity Reviews : An Official Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 7(3), 251-260. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2004.00224.x

Tucker. T., van Zandvoort. M., Burke S., & Irwin. J. (2011). Physical activity at daycare: Childcare providers’ perspectives for improvements. (2011). Journal of Early Childhood Research, 9(3), 207-219. doi:10.1177/1476718X10389144

van Zandvoort, M., Tucker, P., Irwin, J. D., & Burke, S. M. (2010). Physical activity at daycare: Issues, challenges and perspectives. Early Years: An International Journal of Research and Development, 30(2), 175-188. doi:10.1080/09575141003667282

Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: The evidence. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal De l'Association Medicale Canadienne, 174(6), 801-809. doi:10.1503/cmaj.051351