Keeping young children physically active is an important strategy to promote their health and well-being. To our knowledge, survey measures of physical activity in preschool-aged children are unavailable. Time spent playing outdoors is a potential surrogate measure of physical activity in preschoolers, but parental-report measures of outdoor playtime have not been evaluated.
To compare a direct measure of physical activity in preschool-aged children with 2 parental-report measures of children's outdoor playtime.
Main Outcome Measures
Three days of recording with a 3-dimensional accelerometer were used to directly measure physical activity in 250 preschool-aged children. We calculated each child's average vector magnitude per minute while awake. Parental report of outdoor playtime was measured in 2 ways: (1) the score from a checklist used to record outdoor playtime over 3 days and (2) a recall of the usual minutes of daily outdoor playtime during the prior month. We calculated Spearman rank correlation coefficients among these 3 measures.
The mean age of the children was 44 months, 87.7% were white, and 12.3% were black. Parents reported that their children spent a mean (±SD) of 146 (±113) minutes playing outdoors each day. Physical activity as measured by the accelerometer was significantly correlated to the time spent playing outdoors, as measured by the checklist (r = 0.33, P <.001) and recall (r = 0.20, P = .003).
Parental-report measures of outdoor playtime were significantly correlated to a direct measure of physical activity in preschool-aged children, and are worthy of future evaluation as a survey measure.