'Pre-schoolers in the Playground' (PiP) - physical activity for children aged 18 months to 4 years old

The pre-school years is a critical period for establishing healthy lifestyle behaviours such as physical activity (PA). There are many benefits of taking part in regular PA for pre-school children, e.g. maintaining a healthy weight. Tackling childhood obesity is a national public health priority. Although the rate of rise in childhood obesity is slowing, levels in England remain high in urban areas, in those from deprived backgrounds and in ethnic minority groups such as South Asians. Regular PA also has many other important health and social benefits for pre-school children; it is valuable for developing motor skills, enhancing bone and muscle development and for learning social skills. Despite the well-known health benefits of PA there are high levels of physical inactivity across the UK in all age groups, including the pre-school years. Only a few PA programmes for pre-school children have been tested to see how effective they are and the results of these studies are mixed. In a report published in July 2011 the UKs Chief Medical Officer highlighted that we need new programmes that promote movement in the early years (0-5 years old) in the UK. The 'pre-schoolers in the playground' (PiP) programme aims to increase PA levels in children aged 18 months - 4 years old. PiP will open up school playgrounds for pre-school siblings to use with their parent/carer. The 'school run' occurs on every week day for 39 weeks a year, regardless of weather. Capitalising on this daily routine to provide a safe, organised, supervised area for pre-school children to enjoy active play outdoors may increase PA and over time, reduce adiposity. Additionally, involving parents in their community settings has the potential to bond them together and improve their well-being. 

Implementation: Eight schools will be selected from locations across deprived areas of Bradford. Four of the schools will have mostly South Asian pupils and the 4 schools will have mostly Caucasian pupils. Families will be invited to take part in the study, before the schools are randomly allocated to one of the two groups. Four schools will be allocated to the PiP programme and 4 to a group where the usual practice (the control). All participants taking part in the study will have to complete a questionnaire at the start of the study and at 10 weeks, 30 weeks and 52 weeks during the study.