BMC Public Health
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Background: Physical activity (PA) offers numerous health benefits for young children; however, many children enrolled in childcare engage in low levels of PA and high levels of sedentary time. This study aimed to describe the prevalence and content of written PA and screen-viewing (SV) policies in Canadian childcare centers. Methods: Using a modified version of the Environment and Policy Assessment and Observation Self-Report (EPAO-SR) tool, an online survey was distributed to all directors/administrators of center-based childcare facilities across Canada. Reminder emails were sent to encourage survey completion and a strong response rate. Descriptive statistics were used to explore demographic characteristics and frequencies were run to examine the number of centers that implemented a PA or SV policy. Deductive content analysis was completed to identify common themes in participants' open-ended responses. Results: A total of 1158 childcare representatives participated in the study; 514 provided complete data. Of these, 295 (44%) centers indicated having a written PA policy (with the majority regulated at the provincial/territorial-level; n = 227; 42%). Content of these policies included amount of time: spent outdoors (n = 395; 63%); in teacher-led active play (n = 101; 16%); and PA education for children (n = 91; 16%). Additionally, 178 (29%) respondents reported a written policy regarding SV (with majority regulated at the center-level; n = 173; 34%) and primarily focusing on amount of time children watch television. Conclusions: PA regulations are more common than SV policies in Canadian childcare centers; however, less than half implement a PA policy and only a third adopt SV regulations. An opportunity exists to advance practice by adopting proactive approaches to encouraging young children to be more active and less sedentary in childcare (i.e., through written policies). Supplementing policy with accessible resources, as well as consistent provision of early childhood educator (staff) training, represent important steps for putting said policies into action.