Head Start Body Start Intervention Has Increased Physical Activity Levels for More Than 28,000 Children
RESTON, Va., Nov. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — More than 1,500 grants have led to a dramatic increase in the outdoor activity levels of more than 28,000 preschool children over the past three years, say officials from Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play (HSBS), an initiative of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). The $5,000 grants are designated to improve Head Start centers’ outdoor play spaces and educate staff, children and their families about the value of physical activity and outdoor play. Outdoor play helps young children to connect with the natural world, while tapping into many health benefits including physical fitness, vitamin D exposure, improved immunity, better sleep, and enhanced creatively.
In a report summarizing the initiative’s first three years of operation, HSBS officials announced that some 28,310 children at 1,547 Head Start centers around the country benefited from having new playground equipment or enhanced outdoor play spaces as a result of the HSBS grants. About 75 percent of parents and staff members reported that the grants increased the amount of time that the children spent playing outdoors. Overall, HSBS found that physical activity among children at the centers increased by 17 percent.
“As Head Start Body Start enters its fourth year,” said HSBS Center Director Mariah Burton Nelson in releasing the report, “we’re thrilled to learn from our evaluation team that hard work on the part of the HSBS staff and 704 physical activity consultants is paying off with real results. The bottom line is: Because of HSBS, thousands of children are more active than before.”
“Our findings indicate increased physical activity among children in the centers receiving play space grants,” Burton said, as well as “a meaningful change in play space quality for those centers. Based on direct observation at selected grantee sites, children became more active, more ‘moderately to vigorously’ active, and more ‘vigorously’ active — both indoors and out — after outdoor play spaces were improved and physical activity consultants were involved.”
AAHPERD launched HSBS in 2008, after receiving a four-year, $12 million grant from the federal Office of Head Start to promote physical activity for Head Start children. Many Head Start centers also received help from AAHPERD physical activity consultants, who provided on-site instruction in physical education for preschoolers and a variety of games, activity suggestions. Webinars were also created for early childhood educators.
HSBS also found that:
- 94 percent of the stakeholders agreed or strongly agreed that the play space grant had exerted a positive impact on the amount of children’s physical activity outdoors.
- 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the grant had exerted a positive impact on the way teaching staff promotes physical activity.
To improve the play spaces, grantees purchased stationary play equipment; shading and resurfacing; natural elements, such as log benches and garden areas; sensory elements, such as drums, bells and rain sticks; safety features; educational and developmental equipment, and wheeled equipment, such as tricycles, scooters, wagons and tricycle paths.
The evaluation was conducted by Paul Wright, associate professor of kinesiology and physical education at Northern Illinois University. A Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Wright is an internationally recognized expert in physical activity programming for underserved youth.
HSBS is entering its final year of federal funding for the program, but AAHPERD officials hope to maintain the initiative and are currently seeking corporate and foundation support.
HSBS Center Director Nelson added, “We’re very pleased that the HSBS intervention has had a positive impact on the Head Start children, parents and staff. When children develop the habit of physical activity at an early age, it will surely have a positive lifelong effect. That is why we believe it is so important to continue our work to get all young children moving.”
For more information about activity resources and how to create a play space, go to: http://www.headstartbodystart.org
SOURCE American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD)