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Recent research has highlighted the need for increased evidence regarding the sedentary activity levels of preschoolers. Given the large proportion of time this population spends in various early learning facilities, the exploration of sedentary behaviors within this particular environment should be a priority. The purpose of the study was two-fold: (1) to compare sedentary time of preschoolers in three different early learning environments (i.e., full-day kindergarten [FDK], center-, and home-based childcare); and (2) to assess which characteristics (i.e., staff behaviors, sedentary environment, fixed play environment, portable play environment, sedentary opportunities) of these early learning environments influence preschoolers’ sedentary time.
Data collection occurred between September 2011 and June 2012. Preschoolers’ sedentary time was measured using Actical™ accelerometers at a 15 s epoch. The Environment and Policy Assessment and Observation (EPAO) tool was used to assess the sedentary environment of participating early learning classrooms, and those subscales (n = 5) that were evidence-informed as potentially influencing sedentary time in early learning centers were explored in the current study. A linear mixed model ANCOVA was carried out to determine the differences in sedentary time based on type of early learning environment while direct entry regression analyses were performed to describe the relationships between sedentary time and the five sedentary-specific EPAO subscale.
Preschoolers (n = 218) from 28 early learning programs (i.e., 8 FDK, 9 centre-, and 8 home-based childcare facilities) participated. Accelerometry data revealed that preschoolers attending centre-based childcare engaged in the highest rate of sedentary time (41.62 mins/hr, SD = 3.78) compared to preschoolers in home-based childcare (40.72 mins/hr, SD = 6.34) and FDK (39.68 mins/hr, SD = 3.43). The models for FDK, center-based childcare, and home-based childcare, comprised each of the five EPAO subscales accounted for 10.5 %, 5.9 %, and 40.78 % of the variability in sedentary time, respectively. Only the models for FDK and home-based childcare were found to be statistically significant (p < .05).
This is the first exploration of differences in sedentary time among preschoolers in different early learning arrangements. Findings highlight the substantial portion of the day preschoolers spend in sedentary pursuits, and subsequently, the ongoing need to reduce preschoolers’ sedentary time in early learning programs, particularly among those attending centre-based childcare facilities.