Setting them up for lifetime activity: Play competence perceptions and physical activity in young children



      Possessing positive physical perceived competence is important for physical activity in older children. Young children are primarily physically active through play-based behaviour rather than through organised sports and activities, so understanding how play perceptions might influence physical activity behaviour is important. The study purpose was to assess if perceived active play competence is associated with young children’s physical activity.


      Cross sectional study.


      This paper uses two different samples drawn from the same Australian city, both collected in 2013. The first sample included 152 children (49% boys) aged 4–5 years (M = 4.7, SD = 0.47), the second sample included 78 children (55% boys) aged 5–8 years (M = 6.6, SD = 0.93). The Pictorial Scale of Perceived Movement Skill Competence was used to assess children’s perceived competence in six skill-related play activities. Moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) was assessed for 8 consecutive days via accelerometers. A general linear model with the mean minutes in MVPA per day as the outcome, perceived play competence as the independent variable and adjusting for relevant confounders was performed in each sample.


      Perceived active play competence was not related to MVPA min/day (B = 0.44, p = 0.323) in the younger sample, but was in the older sample (B = 1.53, p = 0.026), explaining 24% of adjusted variance.


      Positive findings in the older sample show school-aged children need exposure to play based activities in order to develop the positive self-perception needed to engage in MVPA every day.


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