Research in early childhood is growing in importance at BestStart. We see it as an opportunity to continuously re-evaluate and refine how we provide the highest level of education and care for our children and their Whanau. We were proud to have been part of the recent research into the teaching of preschool exercise and nutrition programmes could result in slashing NZ child obesity rates – and it has just won an international award. The ground-breaking research a collaboration between BestStart Educare, early childhood physical activity programme Jumping Beans, and Massey and Waikato Universities, recently won an award to present at OMEP – Organisation Mondiale Pour L’Éducation Préscolaire – World Conference in Seoul, Korea. Out of 36 global entries received by OMEP, a United Nations linked organisation, the New Zealand study – ‘Physical Activity in Early Childhood’ was one of just seven international award winners. The team is thrilled to receive the award and all partners are committed to further work in the area.
Fiona Hughes, our Deputy CEO of BestStart, says the study was initiated to explore the benefits of exercise and good nutrition in centres.
“There’s been a rapid growth in numbers of children enrolling in education and care and we’re starting a discussion around the level of exercise children receive within their centres.”
Sophie Foster, founder of Jumping Beans, adds that there are compelling issues around the topic.
“33% of NZ children are overweight or obese before they reach school, and ECE teachers may lack confidence around providing physical education.”
Teaming up with Massey University College of Health’s Senior Lecturer Ajmol Ali and Waikato University’s School of Education Professor Claire McLachlan, a research project was designed to measure the effect of a 10-week professional development intervention programme in low-decile BestStart South Auckland and Waikato centres. Jumping Beans conducted 45-minute weekly exercise sessions with groups of up to 25 three and four-year-olds and their teachers. Says Sophie Foster:
“The focus of the study was on teaching staff how to use centre resources to give the children ample opportunities for physical activity including fundamental movement patterns, such as jumping and balancing, along with basic ball handling skills. Additionally, teachers received workshops on physical activity and nutrition.”
Says Hughes: “We’ve been struck by the potential impact on society of changing what we can provide to pre-schoolers. We felt the research with Jumping Beans, Waikato and Massey Universities was a meaningful way in which we could approach the issue. This was an opportunity for change and to take a lead in exploring solutions.” And she was right, the results were clearly indicated the benefits of the programme and as such BestStart has now planned to implement the programme to all our centres nationally starting with training the trainers who will then go on and share their knowledge and practices with their teams.
There will be more to come on the national programme we will begin to roll out in the upcoming months.