Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Tucker, Patricia


Environmental factors such as the infrastructure and equipment in childcare centres can influence the physical activity levels of young children. This study explored if implementing the Childcare PhysicaL ActivitY (PLAY) policy resulted in unintended environmental changes that were conducive to physical activity in childcare. Childcare centres were randomized to an experimental (n = 5) or control (n = 4) condition. Three Environment and Policy Assessment and Observation Self-Report (EPAO-SR) tools were used to measure 12 best practice items in relation to the childcare environment and early childhood educators’ (ECEs) practices. Descriptive statistics and mixed-effects logistics regression models were used to explore the best practice items from pre-intervention to 6-months post-intervention. The models indicated no evidence of an association between groups and best practice items (p > .004). Additional research is warranted to explore the impact of implementing childcare policies on the environment and ECEs’ practices.

Summary for Lay Audience

Environmental factors such as the natural infrastructure and equipment in childcare centres can either support or limit opportunities for indoor or outdoor play among young children. These play opportunities influence the physical activity levels of young children. This research was conducted to explore the impact of a childcare physical activity policy on early childhood educators’ physical activity practices and the policy’s subsequent or unintended impact on the childcare environment. Five childcare centres implemented an 8-week evidence-informed physical activity policy, while an additional four centres continued their standard care. This study involved the use of three surveys which explored topics related to the physical environment of childcare centres, the actions the staff take to promote physical activity, the activities that children engaged in, and the classroom environment. At the beginning of the study, directors completed one of the three surveys, which assessed the centre’s physical environment characteristics (i.e., outdoor equipment and natural infrastructure) as well as its physical activity and screen-viewing policies. Early childhood educators completed the other two surveys before, during, after the intervention, and 6 months later. These tools assessed the daily indoor and outdoor activities that children engaged in as well as the physical activity practices of staff. Directors reported slight differences in the presence of outdoor equipment and natural infrastructure between the two groups. Twelve items were measured and analyzed from the two staff surveys. These 12 items were known as best practices and had topics pertaining to physical activity, sedentary time, and outdoor play and learning, which could all be further grouped into the broader categories of childcare environment or early childhood educators’ practices. Results from this study indicate that there was no relationship between intervention and control centres for the 12 best practice items. In other words, no apparent differences were observed in the childcare environment or in early childhood educators’ practices between the two groups. Future research should aim to better understand the impact of implementing a childcare physical activity policy on the childcare environment and in early childhood educators’ practices.