Given that physical inactivity is known to negatively affect health and well-being throughout the life cycle, encouraging the uptake of healthy behaviours, including physical activity from an early age is essential. The message from the early year’s physical activity guidelines has not changed since 2011, therefore identifying ways to help parents realise the potential of early activity is really important.
This report provides insight to practitioners and policy-makers involved in commissioning, designing, and delivering community-based physical activity opportunities for pre-school children. To tackle physical inactivity and encourage physicial activity engagement and sports participation, developing strategies and opportunities that acknowledge and seek to address the barriers identified, and build on the facilitators highlighted by parents, particularly surrounding infrastructure and affordability may be vital. Indeed, this may be particularly pertinent in areas of Wales classified asunderserved. Now insight has been gathered for the general pre-school population, factors influencing specific groups, such as clinical populations (e.g. pre-school children with autism or cerebral palsy) also need to be explored to ensure that appropriate community-based activities are appropriate and accessible to the needs of all children and their parents.
Multiple factors across the four levels of the socioecological model have been identified by parents as influencing their engagement of their pre-school child in community-based physical activity. Whilst these provide key areas for practitioner and policy-maker consideration, some also require more work to explore and further understand their impact.
Based on these findings, three key recommendations have been made, and suggestions for their implementation outlined:
Perceptions of how the barriers and facilitators may differ between mothers and fathers needs further exploration. Whilst the views and needs of fathers are discussed within some of the included articles, the number of female views was much greater.
Facilities like play groups and parks provide opportunities for mothers to socialise: the perspectives of fathers need to be explored further.
Dual-advertising campaigns may be needed to target both parenting roles at the same time.
Factors that that may have the greatest influence on parents who are more or less affluent, and/or live in rural versus urban locations, might differ and requires further investigation.
In underserved communities, affordability and access barriers present the greatest challenge; where cost is not an issue, influencing factors appear to be more focused on beliefs and social opportunities: the impact of socioeconomic and geographical differences needs to be compared in greater depth.
Policy-implementation strategies and opportunity provision, whilst provided to all, may need to begraded depending on need.
Parental beliefs and knowledge can influence their prioritisation of physical activity.
For many years, it has been perceived within society that pre-schoolers are sufficiently active already, just by taking part in their normal everyday activities: where on the spectrum of importance parents place engaging pre-school-aged children with physical activity needs to be established.
Strategies that educate parents on the value of physical activity and challenge beliefs and knowledge need to be considered.