Wide Variability in Physical Activity Environments and Weather-Related Outdoor Play Policies in Child Care Centers Within a Single County of Ohio

Childcare center policies permitting outdoor play in certain types of inclement weather might safely increase physical activity; current policies may be overly restrictive.

Inadequate physical activity at childcare centers may contribute to the obesity rate. Factors affecting physical activity levels are the amount of playtime, the size and types of playground equipment, and policies dictating weather conditions and clothing suitable for outdoor activities.

This article describes variation in playground environments and physical activity policies at childcare centers in Hamilton County, Ohio. The study recruited nearly all of the county’s centers providing full-time care for 3 to 6 year olds. The centers’ administrative staff completed phone interviews that assessed weather and clothing related policies, (e.g., did the center have clothes available for loan), playground characteristics, and demographics of child enrollees. Each center received a score according to physical activity environment and policy criteria.

Key Findings:

  • Only half of the centers reported having an indoor playroom.
  • Centers caring for more low-income, minority children reported lower-quality playgrounds.

A strength of this study is its inclusion of all licensed, full-time childcare centers within Hamilton County. The authors recommend targeted grants to promote cost-effective strategies for increasing physical activity.