Impact of teacher implemented activities and free play on preschool children’s physical activity at indoor playground markings

  • Menekse Boz Department of Primary Education, Faculty of Education, Hacettepe University, Ankara, TURKEY
  • Irmak Hürmeriç Altunsöz Physical Education and Sports Department, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, TURKEY
  • Yasin Altınışık Department of Statistics, Sinop University, Sinop, TURKEY
Keywords: children, physical activity, indoor markings, playground markings


The paper contains two different studies on preschool children’s physical activity at indoor playground markings. Both of these studies are designed as two-factor experiments. Participants were children (N=87, 41 females, 46 males; Mage= 66.4 months) from an urban public preschool. Two main hallways of the school were painted with playground markings. Data were gathered for two consecutive weeks (Week 1 = free play, Week 2 = teacher implemented activities). This forms the instruction type in these studies with two levels (‘no’ = free play time in Week 1, ‘yes’ = teacher implemented activities in Week 2). Physical activity level was assessed using the System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time for Preschoolers (SOFIT-P) with five levels (1 = lying down, 2 = sitting, 3 = standing, 4 = walking, and 5 = fast/highly active). Moreover, seven activity types were considered in the study (S = lie down/sit/stand/squat, C = climb/crawl, W = walk/ride, P = push/pull/throw, K = rock/swing, D = dance/jump/skip, and R = run/roll/rough/tumble). R (version 3.6.1) was used for the data analysis in both studies using a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). The goal of the first study was to evaluate the effects of instruction type and activity levels on the time spent by children during physical activities. The second study aimed to investigate the same outcome in the first study with respect to the instruction type and the activity type. The findings revealed that children spent more time doing high levels of activities at the playground markings when performing teacher implemented activities. The instruction type impacted physical activity levels more than the activity type. Increasing time spent in teacher implemented activities is a key element to encourage children to be more active at indoor playground markings.


Download data is not yet available.


Alhassan, S., Sirard, J. R, & Robinson, T. N. (2007). The effects of increasing outdoor play time on physical activity in Latino preschool children. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 2(3), 153-8.

Barros, S. S. H., Lopes, A. D. S., & Barros, M. V. G. D. (2012). Prevalence of low physical activity level among preschool children. Revista Brasileira de Cineantropometria and Desempenho Humano, 14(4), 390-400. 0037.2012v14n4p390

Baquet, G., Aucouturier, J., Gamelin, F.X., & Berthoin, S. (2018). Longitudinal follow-up of physical activity during school recess: Impact of playground markings. Frontiers in Public Health, 6, 283.

Behrens, T. K., Holeva‐Eklund, W. M., Luna, C., Carpenter, D., Tucker, E., Field, J., & Kelly, C. (2019). An evaluation of an unstructured and structured approach to increasing recess physical activity. Journal of School Health, 89(8), 636-642.

Blaes, A., Ridgers, N. D., Aucouturier, J., Van Praagh, E., Berthoin, S., & Baquet, G. (2013). Effects of a playground marking intervention on school recess physical activity in French children. Preventive Medicine, 57(5), 580-584.

Booth, F.W., Roberts, C. K., & Laye, M. J. (2011). Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases. Comprehensive Physiology, 2(2), 1143-1211.

Broekhuizen, K., Scholten, A. M., & De Vries, S. I. (2014). The value of (pre) school playgrounds for children’s physical activity level: A systematic review. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11(1), 1-28.

Brown, W. H., Pfeiffer, K. A., McIver, K. L., Dowda, M., Addy, C. L., & Pate, R. R. (2009). Social and environmental factors associated with preschoolers’ nonsedentary physical activity. Child Development, 80(1), 45-58. 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01245.x

Bull, F. C., Al-Ansari, S. S., Biddle, S., Borodulin, K., Buman, M. P., Cardon, G., Carty, C., Chaput, J. P., Chastin, S., Chou, R., Dempsey, P. C., DiPietro, L., Ekelund, U., Firth, J., Friedenreich, C., Garcia, L., Gichu, M., Jago, R., Katzmarzyk, P.T.,…… Willumsen, J.F. (2020). World Health Organization 2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 20(54), 1451-1462.

Burdette, H. L., & Whitaker, R. C. (2005). Resurrecting Free play in young children looking beyond fitness and fatness to attention, affiliation, and affect. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 159(1), 46-50.

Cardon, G., Labarque, V., Smits, D., & De Bourdeaudhuij, I. (2009). Promoting physical activity at the pre-school playground: The effects of providing markings and play equipment. Preventive Medicine, 48(4), 335-40.

Cardon, G., Van Cauwenberghe, E., Labarque, V., Haerens, L., & De Bourdeaudhuij, I. (2008). The contribution of preschool playground factors in explaining children's physical activity during recess. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5(1), 11. 5868-5-11

Coe, D. P. (2018). Means of optimizing physical activity in the preschool environment. Am J Lifestyle Med, 14(1), 16-23.

Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 155-159.

Connolly, P., & McKenzie, T. L. (1995). Effects of a games intervention on the physical activity levels of children at recess. Research Quarterly for Exercise Sport, 66, 60-65.

Crust, L., McKenna, J., Spence, J., Thomas, C., Evans, D., & Bishop, D. (2014). The effects of playground markings on the physical self-perceptions of 10–11-year-old school children. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 19(2), 179-190.

Copeland, K. A., Kendeigh, C. A., Saelens, B. E., Kalkwarf, H. J., & Sherman, S. N. (2011). Physical activity in child-care centers: Do teachers hold the key to the playground?. Health Education Research, 2(1), 81-100.

Dowda, M., Pate, R. R., Trost, S.G., Almeida, M. J. C. A., & Sirard, J. R. (2004). Influences of preschool policies and practices on children's physical activity. Journal of Comunity Health, 29, 183-196.

Duncan, J. S., Hopkins, W. G., Schofield, G., & Duncan, E. K. (2008). Effects of weather on pedometer-determined physical activity in children. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 40(8), 1432-1438.

Eather, N., Morgan, P. J. & Lubans, D. R. (2013). Social support from teachers mediates physical activity behavior change in children participating in the Fit-4-Fun intervention. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10(1), 68.

Escalante, Y., García-Hermoso, A., Backx, K., & Saavedra, J.M. (2014). Playground designs to increase physical activity levels during school recess: a systematic review. Health Education and Behavior, 41(2), 138-144.

Frank, M. L., Flynn, A., Farnel, G. S., & Barkley, J. E. (2018). The differences in physical activity levels in preschool children during free play recess and structured play recess. Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness, 16(1), 37-42.

Finn, K., Johannsen, N., & Specker, B. (2002). Factors associated with physical activity in preschool children. Journal of Pediatrics, 140(1), 81-85.

Gallagher, H. (2019). 6 benefits of playground markings for school.

Goldfield, G. S., Harvey, A., Grattan, K. & Adamo, K. B. (2012). Physical activity promotion in the preschool years: A critical period to intervene. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 9, 1326-1342,

Heath, G.W., Parra, D. C., Sarmient, O. L., Andersen, L. B., Owen, N., Goenka, S., ..., & Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. (2012). Evidence-based intervention in physical activity: Lessons from around the world. The Lancet, 380(9838), 272-281.

Hjorth, M.F., Chaput, J. P., Michaelsen, K., Astrup, A., Tetens, I., & Sjödin, A. (2013). Seasonal variation in objectively measured physical activity, sedentary time, cardio-respiratory fitness and sleep duration among 8–11 year-old Danish children: a repeated-measures study. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 808.

Hill, E. (2013). The impact of playground markings on the physical activity levels and play behaviours of foundation stage children (PhD Thesis, University of Lincoln). Lincoln University E-Prints.

Hyndman, B. (2017). Contemporary school playground strategies for healthy students. Hyndman B (eds) School playground strategies to promote structured activities. Springer.

Hyndman, B. P., Benson, A., & Telford, A. (2016). Active play: Exploring the influences on children's school playground activities. American Journal of Play, 8(3), 325.

Kelly, A., Arjunan, P., Van Der Ploeg, H .P., Rissel, C., Borg, J., & Wen, L. M. (2012). The implementation of a pilot playground markings project in four Australian primary schools. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 23(3), 183-187.

Kinder, C. J., Gaudreault, K. L., & Simonton, K. (2020). Structured and unstructured contexts in physical education: Promoting activity, learning and motivation. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 91(6), 30-35.

Kreichauf, S., Wildgruber, A., Krombholz, H., Gibson, E. L., Vögele, C., Nixon, C. A., Douthwaite, W., Moore, H. J., Manios, Y., Summerbell, C. D., & ToyBox‐study Group. (2012). Critical narrative review to identify educational strategies promoting physical activity in preschool. Obesity Reviews, 13, 96-105.

Koka, A., & Hein, V. (2003). Perception of teacher's feedback and learning environment as predictors of intrinsic motivation in physical education. Psychol Sport Exerc, 4, 333-346.

Lu, C., & Montague, B. (2016). Move to learn, learn to move: Prioritizing physical activity in early childhood education programming. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(5), 409-417.

McKenzie, T. L., Sallis, J. F., & Nader, P. R. (1991). SOFIT: System for observing fitness instruction time. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 11(2), 195-205.

McKenzie, T. L., Sallis, J. F., Elder, J. P., Berry, C. C., Hoy, P. L., Nader, P. R., ... & Broyles, S. L. (1997). Physical activity levels and prompts in young children at recess: a two-year study of a bi-ethnic sample. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 68(3), 195-202.

Mohamad Khalid, N. H., Ahmad, Y., Mustafa, M., Hashim, A., & Madon, M. S. (2013). Dietary patterns, involvement in physical activity, and the relationship between body mass index (bmı) and physical self-concept among obese children in klang valley area. Southeast Asia Early Childhood Journal, 2, 75-84.

O'Dwyer, M.V., Fairclough, S. J., Ridgers, N. D., Knowles, Z. R., Foweather, L., & Stratton, G. (2013). Effect of a school-based active play intervention on sedentary time and physical activity in preschool children. Health Education Research, 28(6), 931-42. 931.10.1093/her/cyt097.

Palmer, K. K., Matsuyama, A. L., & Robinson, L. E. (2017). Impact of structured movement time on preschoolers’ physical activity engagement. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45(2), 201-206.

Pearce, M., Page A. S., Griffin, T. P., & Cooper, A. R. (2014). Who children spend time with after school: Associations with objectively recorded indoor and outdoor physical activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11(1), 45.

Reilly, J. J. (2010). Low levels of objectively measured physical activity in preschoolers in child care. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(3), 502-507.

Reilly J. J., Kelly, L., Montgomery, C., Williamson, A., Fisher, A., McColl, J. H., Lo Conte, R., Paton, J. Y. & Grant, S. (2006). Physical activity to prevent obesity in young children: cluster randomized controlled trial. British Medicine Journal, 333(7577),1041-3.

Ridgers, N. D., Fairclough, S. J., & Stratton, G. (2010). Twelve-month effects of a playground intervention on children’s morning and lunchtime recess physical activity levels. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 7(2), 167-175.

Ridgers, N. D., Stratton, G., Fairclough, S. J., & Twisk, J. W. (2007). Long-term effects of a playground markings and physical structures on children's recess physical activity levels. Preventive Medicine, 44(5), 393-397.

Romar, J. E., Enqvist, I., Kulmala, J., Kallio, J., & Tammelin, T. (2019). Physical activity and sedentary behaviour during outdoor learning and traditional indoor school days among Finnish primary school student. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 19(1), 28-42.

Salkind, N. J. (2010). Encyclopedia of research design. SAGE Publications, Inc.

Sando, O. J. (2019). The physical indoor environment in ECEC settings: Children’s well-being and physical activity. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 27(4), 506-519.

Segura-Martínez, P., Molina-García, J., Queralt, A., Mar Bernabé-Villodre, M., Martínez-Bello, D. E., & Martínez-Bello, V. E. (2020). An Indoor Physical Activity Area for Increasing Physical Activity in the Early Childhood Education Classroom: An Experience for Enhancing Young Children's Movement. Early Childhood Educ J.

Senol, F. B. (2021). Physical activity and preschool children: Preschool teachers’ perceptions. Southeast Asia Early Childhood Journal,10(2), 132-146.

Scruggs, P. W., Beveridge, S. K., & Watson, D. L. (2003). Increasing children's school time physical activity using structured fitness break. Pediatr Exerc Sci, 15, 156-169.

Sharma, S., Chuang, R. J., Skala, K., & Atteberry, H. (2011). Measuring physical activity in preschoolers: Reliability and validity of The System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time for Preschoolers (SOFIT-P). Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 15, 257-273.

Sleap, M., & Warburton, P. (1996). Physical activity levels of 5-11 year-old children in England: Cumulative evidence from three direct observation studies. Int J Sports Med, 17, 248-53.

Smith, P. K., & Connolly, K. J. (1980). The ecology of preschool behaviour. Cambridge University Press.

Stratton, G. (2000). Promoting children's physical activity in primary school: An intervention study using playground markings. Ergonomics, 43(10), 1538-1546.

Stratton, G., & Leonard, J. (2002). The metabolism of the elementary school playground: The effects of an intervention study on children’s energy expenditure. Pediatric Exercise Science, 14(2), 170-80.

Stratton, G., & Mullan, E. (2005). The effect of multicolor playground markings on children's physical activity level during recess. Preventive Medicine, 41(5-6), 828-833.

Tandon, P. S., Saelens, B. E., Zhou, C., Kerr, J., & Christakis, D. A. (2013). Indoor versus outdoor time in preschoolers at child care. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(1), 85-88.

Temple, M., & Robinson, J. C. (2014). A systematic review of interventions to promote physical activity in the preschool setting. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, 19(4), 274-284.

Tortella, P., Haga, M., Ingebrigtsen, J. E., Sigmundsson, H., & Fumagalli, G. F. (2019). Comparing free play and partly structured play in 4-5-years-old children in an outdoor playground. Frontiers in Public Health, 7, 197.

Truelove, S., Vanderloo, L., & Tucker, T. (2017). Defining and measuring active play among young children: A systematic review. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 14, 155-166.

Tucker, P. (2008) The physical activity levels of preschool-aged children: A systematic review. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(4), 547-558.

Van der Mars, H. (1989). Observer reliability: Issues and procedures. In P.W. Darst D. Zakrajsek, and VH Mancini (eds), Analyzing physical education and sport instruction (2nd ed.) Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, pp. 54-80.

Zask, A., Van Beurden, E., Barnett, L., Brooks, L. O., & Dietrich, U. C. (2001). Active school playgrounds—myth or reality? Results of the“Move It Groove It”project. Preventive Medicine, 33(5), 402-408.

Verstraete, S. J. M., Cardon, G. M., De Clercq, D. L. R., & De Bourdeaudhuij, I. M. M. (2006). Increasing children's physical activity levels during recess periods in elementary schools: The effects of providing game equipment. Eur J Public Health, 16(4), 415-9.

Wai Leng, A. P., Hui-Shen, C. L., Dhamotharan, M., & Che Mustafa, M. (2021). Preschool teachers’ beliefs and classroom practices of child-centred learning at private preschools in central region, Malaysia. Southeast Asia Early Childhood Journal, 10(2), 69-83.

WHO. (2021). Physical inactivity.

Williams, C. L., Carter, B. J., Kibbe, D. L, & Dennison, D. (2009). Increasing physical activity in preschool: A pilot study to evaluate animal trackers. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 41(1), 47-52.

How to Cite
Boz, M., Altunsöz, I. H., & Altınışık, Y. (2022). Impact of teacher implemented activities and free play on preschool children’s physical activity at indoor playground markings. Southeast Asia Early Childhood Journal, 11(1), 18-34.