Featured Research

Play Active program launched nationally

1 May 2024

Program aims to boost energetic play in Early Childhood Education and Care.

More than 80,000 children are expected to benefit as 700 childcare centres across Australia trial a new program aimed at boosting declining physical activity levels.

Only one in ten Australian children aged 3 to 5 are getting the recommended amount of 3 hours of daily physical activity, including 60 minutes of energetic play.

The Life Course Centre supported Play Active program is endeavouring to reverse the trend by helping early childhood educators support children to be more active.

Life Course Centre Chief Investigator Professor Hayley Christian from the Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia said the early years were a critical period for promoting physical activity, with childcare centres providing the ideal setting for targeting strategies aimed at increasing levels of activity in children. 

“Given young children spend a lot of time in childcare, there is a huge opportunity here to increase their physical activity levels, in particular energetic play that gets them huffing and puffing,” Professor Christian said.

“Play Active is all about ensuring kids get those vital bursts of ‘huff and puff’ play throughout the day, every day.”

Physical activity is critical during the early years of life for a child’s health and development, providing many benefits including a healthy body weight, improved bone health and cardiovascular fitness, and enhanced cognitive, emotional and psychosocial development.

The Play Active program ­­— backed by 10 years of research and co-created with the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector — is the only program of its kind in Australia that provides clear guidelines on the amount of physical activity, sedentary time and screen time children should have in ECEC.

Professor Christian said the team’s research had shown early childhood educators were eager for information about how to help young kids be more active.

“Nutrition, sleep and sun protection policies are required in national ECEC regulations but there is no guidance around how much physical activity, sedentary and screen time children should have while in care,” she said.

“Play Active provides that guidance, training and support.”

Previously trialled in a successful pilot study with 81 Perth centres, Play Active’s national rollout will start in Queensland and South Australia with the aim to reach hundreds of childcare centres across all states and territories over the next four years.

As the trial progresses, the research team will evaluate how well Play Active is implemented across different states and territories, and the longer term effectiveness of the program for increasing young children’s physical activity.

“Evidence from this trial will inform an Australia-wide delivery model that we hope will lead to positive change in addressing active-play based learning long term,” Professor Christian added.

Play Active is a joint initiative between Telethon Kids Institute and research institutes, universities, ECEC services and agencies, government and not-for-profit organisations.

ECEC centres keen to learn more or be part of the program are invited to sign up at www.playactive.org.au.