Physical activity at daycare

Physical activity at daycare
Children spend approximately 65% of their waking time in daycare, which has an impact on their daily habits.

Children spend approximately 65% of their waking time in daycare, which has an impact on their daily habits.

“When you give a child opportunities to be active, you are helping her develop not only her physical fitness but also her language skills, emotions, intelligence and social interaction skills,” explains Camille Gagné, a professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Nursing. “The more active we are when we’re young, the more active we are later in life.”

“According to Canadian guidelines, children between the ages of one and four should engage in 3 hours of physical activity a day, 2 hours of which should take place at daycare. Currently, with 53 minutes of daily physical activity and 89% of their time spent doing sedentary activities, toddlers and preschoolers in daycare are still a long way from reaching this goal,” notes Gagné.

“Statistics also show that children in Canada watch a lot of television,” adds Julie Poissant, a researcher in perinatal and early childhood at INSPQ (Quebec’s public health expertise and reference centre).

Several Canadian organizations recommend a daily maximum of one hour in front of screens (television, computer, tablet) for children aged 2 to 5 and zero exposure to screens for children under the age of 2.

According to a survey conducted in Montreal’s early childhood centres (CPE), only 4% of educators say that the children in their groups watch TV shows every day, and 3% say that they watch movies every day. The survey does not provide information on the situation in home daycares, but some American studies lead us to believe that the use of television is more widespread. According to Poissant, it’s therefore possible that we are underestimating the time children actually spend watching TV by not considering what they watch at daycare. “Until now, the advice we have been giving to daycares is to only use screens if they are part of an educational program. These recommendations, however, will change. It’s better to avoid all use of television and audiovisual equipment in childcare services,” explains Poissant.

The responsibility of passing on healthy life habits to children therefore should be shared equally by daycares and families. “Daycares can discuss recommendations on the amount of time spent in front of screens with parents and explain the importance of increasing physical activity,” says Poissant. “By the same token, if parents are concerned about the use of screens in daycare, they should bring it up.”

The advantages of a male educator
A commonly held belief is that male educators offer more motor activities than their female counterparts. Thérèse Besnard, a professor at the Université de Sherbrooke and author of a study on the place of men in Quebec’s childcare services, has seen little difference between men and women in childcare services. She has, however, noted that children benefit from being in contact with both. Even if we still don’t know why exactly, these children adapt better socially. They have fewer behavioural problems, less shyness-related difficulties and are also less confrontational. ”It’s probably because the access to both models helps them develop more tools to initiate relationships,” believes Besnard. Moreover, little boys can take advantage of these male models to develop their social skills. Some studies have also demonstrated that boys who have both male and female educators have an easier time developing their sexual identity, perform better in math, and have a better attitude in school.
Remember
  • Quality childcare services are good for your child’s development.
  • Educators must be predictable, consistent and nurturing when meeting children’s requests.
  • It’s essential for parents and daycare staff to work together.