Physical education’ in early childhood education: Implications for primary school curricula

Children’s physical education in early childhood settings has always been underpinned by an emphasis on play. This is viewed as foundational for child development (movement education, cognitive growth, socialising functions, emotional development). However, where priorities about childhood obesity prevail, increased ‘prevention’ efforts have become targeted at primary and pre-school-aged children. It could be argued that early childhood education has become another site for the ‘civilising’ of children’s bodies. Drawing on data from a questionnaire completed by 65 early childhood education centres in Aotearoa New Zealand, we examine the play and physical education ‘curriculum’ and what this may mean for pre-school children’s views of physical activity and health. In light of the evidence that suggests pre-school physical education programmes reinforce achievement of a certain restrictive and narrow model of physical health and activity, we explore the implications for primary school physical education. In doing so we consider how teachers of physical education in primary schools may need to reconsider the curriculum to support young children to regain enthusiasm for pleasurable movement forms that are not centred on narrowly perceived notions of the healthy or sporting body. © The Author(s) 2017.

Children’s physical education in early childhood settings has always been underpinned by an emphasis on play. This is viewed as foundational for child development (movement education, cognitive growth, socialising functions, emotional development). However, where priorities about childhood obesity prevail, increased ‘prevention’ efforts have become targeted at primary and pre-school-aged children. It could be argued that early childhood education has become another site for the ‘civilising’ of children’s bodies. Drawing on data from a questionnaire completed by 65 early childhood education centres in Aotearoa New Zealand, we examine the play and physical education ‘curriculum’ and what this may mean for pre-school children’s views of physical activity and health. In light of the evidence that suggests pre-school physical education programmes reinforce achievement of a certain restrictive and narrow model of physical health and activity, we explore the implications for primary school physical education. In doing so we consider how teachers of physical education in primary schools may need to reconsider the curriculum to support young children to regain enthusiasm for pleasurable movement forms that are not centred on narrowly perceived notions of the healthy or sporting body. © The Author(s) 2017.

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