Original Research

Children’s time use and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in early childhood education and care in Finland

Anna-Liisa Kyhälä, Jyrki Reunamo, Juha O. Valtonen
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 11, No 1 | a933 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v11i1.933 | © 2021 Anna-Liisa Kyhälä, Jyrki Reunamo, Juha O. Valtonen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 September 2020 | Published: 09 July 2021

About the author(s)

Anna-Liisa Kyhälä, Department of Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Jyrki Reunamo, Department of Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Juha O. Valtonen, Department of Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland


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Abstract

Background: The role of early childhood education and care (ECEC) is crucial in the implementation of the physical activity recommendations during long ECEC days. Young children should engage in 180 minutes of physical activity spread throughout the day, including 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). To attain the goal more information is needed on children’s time use and physical activity (PA) in children’s activities.

Aim: The purposes of this quantitative observational study were twofold: (1) to examine children’s time use and (2) to describe which children’s activities best generate physical activity, specifically MVPA, in ECEC.

Setting: Altogether, 2879 Finnish children, aged from 1- to 6-years, participated in this study.

Methods: The data of 57 881 observations were analysed using cross-tabulation and a z-test.

Results: Daily routines (e.g. eating, dressing, napping and transition), task or seatwork and material play accounted for almost 70% of children’s sedentary behaviour and less than 10% of MVPA. The best MVPA generators were physical activities (that generated 57.4% of all MVPA in boys vs. 62.8% in girls, respectively), rule play (11% in boys vs. 6.7% in girls) and role play (10.1% in boys vs. 9.9% in girls) as well as action not allowed (3.3% in boys vs. 1.2% in girls).

Conclusions: Educators should integrate physical activities, rule play and role play more in ECEC day to support the realisation of the recommendations.


Keywords

early childhood; physical activity; efficacy; children’s activities; moderate-to-vigorous physical activity

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