Table 5: Perceptions of early childhood physical activity and related issues.

RuralLow-income urbanHigh-income urban

Perceptions of early childhood physical activity

(i) If a child is not physically active, they are probably ill.
(ii) The games they play tell you what career they are likely to have when they are adults.
(iii) Children’s play copies what they see and experience.
(i) If a child is not physically active, they are probably ill.
(ii) Children develop through play. Our children do not have the opportunities to play like the children in richer areas have.
(iii) Children’s play copies what they see and experience, including on TV and what their parents do.
(i) Physical activity is important to being healthy. Children are regularly monitored for signs of illness.
(ii) Physically active play is vital in developing cognitively and socially, as well as developing motor skills.
(iii) Children’s play copies what they see and experience, including on TV.

“It helps them they must not get sick simply like coughing. If they running around even the blood can circulate simply in the bodies. When they play you can see that the child is in good health, but if a child sit down for a long time not playing you can also see that the child is sick.” Parent, rural
“They learn through [physically active play], we know that’s how they learn and they’re not just playing you know. Adults see it as just playing, but it’s not playing. It’s learning about the world around you, it’s learning about how to make a plan when something doesn’t work and how to move your body in relation to everything around you. And your friends, social interaction, all those things. And if they’re going to formal education too soon, they haven’t built up an idea of the world around them, that is strong enough for them to be able to cope with abstract ideas, they haven’t built up the vocabulary to cope in classroom so they struggle, because they have huge demands put on them.” Teacher, high-income urban
“The four to five year olds, they generally play quite a lot of fantasy imaginative games and it depends on what their experience is. So if they do watch television they will want to play games like ninja turtles, or if they’ve watch Pirates of the Caribbean they will play those.” Teacher, high-income urban

Benefits of physical activity

(i) Physically active play is important for physical development.(i) Physically active play is important for physical and mental development.(i) Physically active play is important for physical, mental, and social development.

“…it helps with their mental ability and their physical body development, and even in their classes. When they are given a task, or when they come inside, and they play outside then it’s good for them, because when they come into the class they will share how they feel about what they did outside.” Teacher, low-income urban

Sedentary behaviour

(i) Sedentary behaviour is rare and usually a sign of ill health.(i) Sedentary behaviour is rare. Children are sometimes kept inside for safety reasons.(i) Sedentary behaviour is usually a result of technology, but we make sure our children get enough exercise.

Nutrition

(i) The children eat “empty calories” at school. Some children are undernourished. There is a lack of nutritional education.(i) Diet was not raised as a theme.(i) Unhealthy food, especially sugar, is considered a big problem for the children.

“…I find that my kids eat a lot of sweet things, more than I would like. It’s so easily accessible, if you go to the shops, it’s right at the till. Everything is always (gestures grabbing a snack) and it’s so easy to just say ‘get something small, take something small.’ So for me it’s to get the sugar out of my house.” Parent, high-income urban