Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Tucker, Patricia


This study entailed a process evaluation of the Childcare PhysicaL ActivitY (PLAY) Policy. Early childhood educators (ECEs) in childcare centres (n = 5) delivered the policy (which included 8 recommendations) and documented adherence (i.e., dose) in daily implementation logs. Program evaluation surveys (n = 21) and interviews (n = 10) were completed post-intervention to assess barriers/facilitators, feasibility, enjoyment, and likelihood of future implementation. Descriptive statistics and thematic analysis were conducted. Adherence was highest for delivery of child-directed play (85.9%) and lowest for delivery of frequent outdoor periods (16.5%). Participants reported they were likely to continue policy implementation, excluding frequent outdoor periods (0 = not at all likely to 5 = extremely likely; M = 2.19; SD = 1.21). Noteworthy themes identified by ECEs included weather as a barrier, and verbal prompts as a solution for increasing physical activity. These findings suggest ECEs found the policy appropriate for implementing in childcare.

Summary for Lay Audience

Physical inactivity among young children (<5 years) is a serious health concern. Many children do not receive enough physical activity to obtain important health benefits, such as strengthening bones and muscles, developing motor skills, and maintaining a healthy bodyweight. Currently, a large number of toddlers and preschoolers receive care outside of their homes, and these types of childcare settings are recognized as vital in influencing young children’s activity levels. Formal written physical activity policies within childcare centres may increase the amount of physical activity opportunities children are afforded; however, no study in Canada has examined the feasibility of such a policy. This study entailed a process evaluation (exploring feasibility and implementation adherence) of a Childcare PhysicaL ActivitY (PLAY) policy through an early childhood educator (ECE) lens.

Randomly selected childcare centres (n = 5) in London, Ontario delivered the physical activity-targeted policy for 8-weeks to toddlers and preschoolers (<5 years) in their care. Intervention group ECEs (n = 22) documented their adherence to following the policy and its components in a daily implementation log during the 8-week intervention period. In addition, ECEs were asked to complete a program evaluation survey and participate in telephone interviews post-intervention for the purpose of gaining a deeper insight into their perspectives of challenges faced (i.e., barriers and facilitators; context), feasibility, perceived effectiveness and enjoyment, communication, and future implementation of the policy.

Overall, ECEs followed the policy well; high adherence was found for delivering child-led/unstructured activity opportunities, using verbal prompts, and encouraging fundamental movement skills development. Results from the program evaluation survey showed ECEs found the policy to be realistic and appropriate for implementation in childcare settings. ECEs reported that they were likely to continue implementing policy components once the intervention had ceased and identified effective communication between the research team and childcare staff. Prominent themes identified that weather and frequent transitions from indoors to outdoors were a barrier, and the use of verbal prompts was a suitable solution for involving children in physical activity. Overall, this study discovered that ECEs found the Childcare PLAY policy to be appropriate for implementation in centre-based childcare settings.