Thursday 19 February 2009
The Early Years Foundation Stage and The
Children's Plan emphasise the importance of physically active play,
yet we know very little about this aspect of play in early years
and how to encourage it.
In this study, funded by the Department for Culture, Media and
Sport and carried out on behalf of Play England, the Research,
Evidence & Evaluation department at NCB devised innovative
observation methods to capture data on children's play in three
early years settings. Physically active play accounted for on
average 53 per cent of observed time, which varied from 61 per cent
in the setting with the most to 44 per cent in the setting with the
The setting with the most physically active play was
- a strong ethos of free-flow movement inside and outside;
- open access to a large outdoor space, encouraging children to
incorporate the landscape into play;
- more active encouragement of physically active play by staff;
- more active play with equipment.
The nature of physically active play also varied. Higher levels
did not necessarily indicate self-directed, purposeful and
sustained play, nor constructive engagement with activities and
other children. The proportion of physically active minutes spent
outside varied from 46 to 14 percent, with the lowest level in the
setting without open access.
- 24 per cent of all observed minutes involved physically active
play outside; 29 per cent involved physically active play inside;
43 per cent involved inactive play inside only; and four per cent
involved inactive play outside only.
- For the children in the sample, the proportion of observed
minutes involving physically active play ranged from 72 to 29 per