Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (School of Health Sciences)

First Supervisor

Professor Beth Hands

Second Supervisor

Doctor Duncan Picknoll


Background: Children participate in less daily physical activity, both organised and informal, often referred to as active play (AP), than in the past. For young children, parents are primarily responsible for planning their child’s day including their engagement in physical activity.

Purpose: As there has been little research in this area, the purpose of this study was to examine how parents rated the importance of their child’s level of AP and organised physical activity (OPA), how this affected the amount of time their child participated in these activities, and whether their child’s physical activity (PA) related to their own level of (PA).

Method: The data for this pilot study were collected over three-months using a survey methodology. Parents and caregivers of primary school aged children were asked to complete a questionnaire comprising two importance scales, one for AP and the second for OPA, a seven-day physical activity recall questionnaire about their own physical activity and a seven-day activity diary about their child’s active play and organised physical activity. Evidence of the validity and reliability of the importance scales developed for this study was gathered using experts in the industry and a target sample audience.

Results: A total of 177 participants from 62 families participated in this pilot study, 41 fathers, 63 mothers, 40 male children and 33 female children aged between 4 and 12 years. All participants, lived in Perth, Western Australia. Parent’s responses were compared to the actual level and type of physical activity undertaken by their child each week and their own physical activity level. There was a positive relationship between parents’ rating of AP and the time their child spent in AP (r = .227). Parents rated both AP and OPA as important, with active play slightly more important, especially by mothers and the more active parents. There was a strong correlation between age and organised physical activity (r = .464) in particular for the boys (r= .729) but not for active play (r = -.051). There was a weak, significant correlation between the time parents and their children spent engaged in physical activity (r =.209). A linear mixed regression model found that only children’s age was a significant predictor for participation in OPA (β=1.07, p= 0.007) and no predictors were identified for AP.

Conclusions: The positive relationship between the mother’s ratings of AP and children's participation in AP is an interesting new finding. The results of this study provide new information regarding the impact of parent’s importance ratings on their child’s participation in active play and organised physical activity, and the time their children participated in these activities. It is important to develop effective health promotion strategies and educational initiatives that encourages parents to value the importance of both AP and OPA.

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