Evidence shows that physical activity in early childhood has a positive impact on children’s health and development and on activity levels later in life. These benefits are not only short-term, but also remain through adolescence and into adulthood.
Whilst we are starting to learn more about young children’s physical activity, we currently know very little about how and where children are active, particularly in the UK. The limited information we have suggests that children’s activity levels vary greatly both over the course of the day and throughout the week, and may depend on where they are. As children now spend increasingly large amounts of time in childcare, we believe that the physical and social environment at the preschool, as well as at home, could play an important role in influencing children’s health behaviours.
The SPACE study – Studying Physical Activity in preschool Children and their Environment – aims to assess the how active preschool-aged children are and where they are active throughout the day. We also want to look at what things might be related with this activity at home and in their preschool or nursery setting. These may be individual factors, such as a preference for different activities or factors within the preschool environment, such as fixed or mobile play equipment. We will also collect some dietary information to better understand how these two health behaviours are linked.
As UK activity guidelines specific to under 5s, nutrition recommendations and a new EYFS framework have recently been published, we believe that this is an excellent time to investigate the positive role the preschool environment might have in shaping health behaviours. The important information we collect will help us to design programmes to make sure all preschool-aged children have the opportunity to be as active as possible throughout the day.