Children and parents’ perspectives of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ontario children’s physical activity, play, and sport behaviours
BMC Public Health
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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health measures have resulted in the closure of many physical activity-supporting facilities. This study examined Ontario parents’ and children’s perspectives of COVID-19’s impact on children’s physical activity behaviours, return to play/sport during COVID-19, as well as barriers/facilitators to getting active amid extended closures of physical activity venues. Methods: Parents/guardians of children aged 12 years and under living in Ontario, Canada were invited to participate in an interview. 12 parent/guardian and 9 child interviews were conducted via Zoom between December 2020 – January 2021, were audio-recorded, and transcribed verbatim. Thematic content analysis was undertaken to identify pronounced themes. Results: Themes for both parent and child interviews fell into one of three categories: 1) barriers and facilitators for getting children active amid COVID-19 closures of physical activity-supporting facilities; 2) changes in children’s activity levels; and, 3) perspectives on return to play/sport during and post-pandemic. Various subthemes were identified and varied between parents and children. The most common facilitator for dealing with children’s inactivity voiced by parents/guardians was getting active outdoors. Parents/guardians noted their willingness to have their children return to play/sport in the community once deemed safe by public health guidelines, and children’s willingness to return stemmed primarily from missing their friends and other important authority figures (e.g., coaches) and sporting events (e.g., tournaments). Conclusions: Findings from this study could inform families of feasible and realistic strategies for increasing children’s physical activity during community closures, while also providing public health experts with information regarding what supports, or infrastructure might be needed during future lockdown periods and/or pandemics.