Educator-Perceived Barriers and Facilitators to Structured-Physical Activity in Early Childhood Centres: A Systematic Review

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    Purpose: Physical activity (PA) and motor competence development are vital for young children, yet many early childhood education and care (ECEC) centers struggle to successfully implement PA programs, particularly those organized and led by educators. This review aimed to synthesize qualitative literature to (1) identify educator-perceived barriers and facilitators to structured-PA in ECEC centers, and (2) map these to the COM-B model and Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF). Methods: Following PRISMA guidelines, a systematic search of five databases was conducted in April 2021 and updated in August 2022. Records were screened in Covidence software using predefined eligibility criteria. Using the framework synthesis method, data extraction and synthesis were conducted in coding forms in Excel and NVivo. Results: Of 2382 records identified, 35 studies were included, representing 2,365 educators across 268 ECEC centers in 10 countries. Using the COM-B model and TDF, an evidence-informed framework was developed. Findings revealed the greatest barriers concerned educator “opportunity” (e.g. competing time and priorities, policy tensions, indoor/outdoor space constraints) and “capability” (e.g. lack of PA knowledge and practical, hands-on skills) to implement structured-PA. Although fewer studies reported factors that influenced educator “motivation”, several themes intersected across the three COM-B components illustrating the complexity of behavioral determinants in this setting. Conclusions: Interventions grounded in theory that utilize a systems approach to target multiple levels of influence on educator behavior, and are flexible and adaptable locally, are recommended. Future work should seek to address societal barriers, structural challenges in the sector, and the PA educational needs of educators. PROSPERO Registration: CRD42021247977
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)243-262
    Number of pages20
    JournalResearch Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
    Issue number1
    Early online date16 Jun 2023
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2024

    Bibliographical note

    © 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.


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