Best-practice guidelines for physical activity at child care

Christina McWilliams, Sarah C. Ball, Sara E. Benjamin, Derek Hales, Amber Vaughn, Dianne S. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Research has indicated that the child care center is a very strong predictor of preschool-aged children's physical activity levels, making this an important setting to help young children obtain physical activity that is appropriate for their health and development. However, some evidence suggests that organized child care may not adequately support children's physical activity needs. Although many organizations provide recommendations, guidelines, or standards for motor skill development and physical activity opportunities, no set of guidelines exist that directly target the overall physical activity environment at child care. Because of the lack of comprehensive recommendations, the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-assessment for Child Care bestpractice guidelines for healthy weight development were created on the basis of an extensive review of existing guidelines, research evidence, and expert review. The purpose of this article is to present these physical activity best-practice guidelines and provide data on how these guidelines compare to current practice in a large sample (N = 96) of child care centers in North Carolina. These best-practice guidelines include recommendations for 8 unique components of the child care environment, including active opportunities, fixed play environment, portable play environment, sedentary opportunities, sedentary environment, staff behavior, staff training/education, and physical activity policies. Our results showed that only a few of the best-practice guidelines were achieved by a majority of the 96 North Carolina child care centers that participated in this study. Establishing comprehensive guidelines for physical activity at child care could result in higher activity levels and healthier children, but more research is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1650-1659
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Child care
  • Environment
  • Guidelines
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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