Motivation to Move: Physical Activity Affordances in Preschool Play Areas
Cosco, Nilda Graciela
The goal of this study is to investigate the association between different types of play area design and level of physical activity of 3-5 year old children. Rationale 1. The majority of USA children are in some type of childcare provision. 2. The childcare centre is the highest predictor of preschool physical activity. 3. Being outdoors is the strongest correlate of physical activity. Three childcare centres in North Carolina, USA, were selected to carry out the study (n=90). A variety of methods were used to establish sample comparability: Early Childhood Attention Deficit Disorder Scale EC-ADDES, body mass index (BMI), the Test of Gross Motor Development TGMD-2 and children demographic information. Accelerometry was used to measure children’s activity. To link the amount of physical activity to play settings and environmental features two methods were used: 1. Behaviour mapping (processed with GIS), and 2. Video tracking of selected children (analysed using The Observer, Noldus). Setting diversity was measured using a 1-4 point scale developed by the researcher. Findings The study strongly suggests that: • The amount of physical activity afforded by preschool play areas can be intentionally improved by design. • Diverse play areas containing pathways and natural elements, and combining a range of setting sizes are expected to be the most active. • The most effective setting for motivating physical activity in this study is predicted to be a wide, curvy, wheeled toy pathway. • Compact play areas, where greater numbers of children play together, are likely to support more physical activity. • Educational programs that foster outdoor learning are likely to secure greater amounts of sustained physical activity. As a research contribution to the emerging field of design for active living, a key purpose of the study is to influence childcare policy and accreditation. Appropriate design and childcare licensing policies are viable vehicles to produce environmental and behaviour change in early childhood institutions.