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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The influence of parents and the home environment on preschoolers' physical activity behaviours: A qualitative investigation of childcare providers' perspectives

Patricia Tucker1*, Melissa M van Zandvoort2, Shauna M Burke3 and Jennifer D Irwin3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Occupational Therapy, 1201 Western Road, Elborn College, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, N6G 1H1, Canada

2 Middlesex-London Health Unit, 50 King St., London, ON, N6A 5L7, Canada

3 School of Health Studies, Arthur & Sonia Labatt Health Sciences Building, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, N6A 5B9, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:168  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-168

Published: 17 March 2011



Physical activity offers numerous physiological and psychological benefits for young children; however, many preschool-aged children are not engaging in sufficient activity. The home environment, inclusive of parent role modeling, has been identified as influencing preschoolers' physical activity. This study sought to examine childcare providers' perspectives of the importance of parents and the home environment for supporting the physical activity behaviours of preschool-aged children (aged 2.5-5 years) attending childcare.


A heterogeneous sample of childcare providers (n = 84; response rate 39%) working at childcare facilities in London, Ontario participated. Thirteen semi-structured focus groups were conducted in London centres between February 2009 and February 2010. Focus groups were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim and inductive content analysis was used to code and classify themes. A number of strategies were used to verify the trustworthiness of the data.


Childcare providers acknowledged their reliance on parents/guardians to create a home environment that complements the positive physical activity messaging children may receive in childcare. Moreover, childcare staff highlighted the need for positive parent role modeling and parent support to encourage active healthy lifestyles among young children.


This study's findings highlight the need for increased parent-caregiver partnering in terms of communication and cooperation in service of promoting appropriate amounts of physical activity among London preschoolers.

physical activity; preschoolers; home environment; parents; childcare providers