Activity level of daycare preschoolers may fool you

February 19, 2009

Don't invest too much stock in the notion that preschoolers are always active and on the go, new research points out.

Don’t invest too much stock in the notion that preschoolers are always active and on the go, new research in the February issue of Pediatrics points out.

Researchers noted that “'conventional wisdom' of many early childhood educators is that young children are very active in preschools. [But] research has shown that, most often, young children's physical activity in preschools is primarily sedentary in nature."

This cross-sectional study, Children's Activity and Movement in Preschools Study (CHAMPS), assessed 476 children ages 3 to 5 enrolled in 24 preschools in a metropolitan area of South Carolina. The study revealed that youngsters at daycare facilities occupied 89% of their time there participating in sedentary activities, according to William H. Brown, PhD, lead author, and colleagues.

Children were observed for 30 minutes at a time and five levels of activity were noted: motionless, stationary with limb movement, slow easy activity, moderate activity, and vigorous activity. During an average day only 8% of activities were lightly active, and 3% were moderate-to-vigorously active. Majority of activities were sedentary.

Separating the indoor from outdoor activities, researchers indicated that 94% of indoor activity was sedentary; just 1% was moderate or vigorous. Outdoor activity was slightly more involved with 56% being sedentary, and 17% being moderate or vigorous.

When balls or play objects were made available, children were more likely to be active. The same held true when children were provided with open space.

For reference, visit www.pediatrics.aapublications.org.