Physical Activity at Daycare: Childcare Providers’ Perspectives for Improvements

Patricia Tucker, The University of Western Ontario
Melissa M. van Zandvoort, Middlesex-London Health Unit, London, ON
Shauna M. Burke, The University of Western Ontario
Jennifer D. Irwin, The University of Western Ontario


In London, Ontario, approximately 45 percent of preschoolers are insufficiently active.With the large number of preschoolers who attend childcare (54%), and the low levels of physical activity among preschool-aged children, daycare centers may be an appropriate avenue to intervene. This study sought to collect childcare providers’ suggestions for improving physical activity during daycare hours and their perspectives regarding the feasibility of meeting the physical activity guidelines currently set out for preschoolers. This qualitative study targeted a heterogeneous sample of childcare providers (n = 54) working at YMCA daycare centers in London, Ontario. Eight focus groups were conducted. Saturation was reached by the fifth focus group; however, three additional focus groups were completed to confirm that the researchers continued hearing the same responses. Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Inductive content analysis was used to code and categorize emerging themes. Strategies were incorporated to ensure data trustworthiness. Childcare providers believed the children in their care were quite active and when asked what would be required to increase the physical activity participation among the preschoolers in their care, participants discussed: staff training/workshops; guest physical activity instructors; additional equipment and resources; and increased funds for physical activity. The majority of focus group participants also felt it was feasible for the preschoolers in their care to meet or exceed the preschooler physical activity guidelines. Developing programs and resources that are informed by childcare providers may be an effective way to target sedentary behaviors among the preschool-aged population. Accordingly, childcare providers’ suggestions of how to maximize the opportunities for physical activity during daycare hours should be considered when developing and revising childcare curriculum, resources and policies.