Background: Healthy physical activity behaviours during the early years are linked with several health benefits and track over time into adulthood. Gross motor skills are an important determinant of physical activity. Children’s physical activity levels and motor competence has declined over the past years. Although parents have a central role in influencing their children, parents’ perspectives on physical activity and early gross motor development is not well understood.
Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the perspectives of parents on early gross motor development and physical activity during the early childhood, living in low socio-economical areas in the Hague.
Methods: A qualitative study was conducted with an interpretive approach. A purposive sampling method was used to recruit parents of children aged 0-4 years old living in low socio-economical neighbourhoods in the Hague. Semi-structured interviews (n=15) were conducted by phone and face-to-face. A thematic content analysis was used to analyse the data.
Results: Although parents were aware of the positive effects of physical activity, parents took a more or less active attitude in stimulating their child’s physical activity and gross motor development, whereby most parents believed in a natural development and maturation. Parental practices within the home environment and outdoor environment were identified. However, barriers inhibited their children’s physical activity at interpersonal and organizational level. In addition, parents were not aware of physical activity recommendations given by the WHO. In addition, parents did not recognize their own child’s physical activity levels. Parents expressed several needs including more information about the early gross motor development, more social contact with other parents and affordable and age-appropriate activities in the neighbourhood.
Conclusion: It can be concluded that there is a discrepancy between the importance that parents attach to physical activity for their child and the actual practices of parents in stimulating their child’s early gross motor development and physical activity. The findings in this study could facilitate the development of an effective parental intervention programme aimed at improving the physical activity levels and gross motor skills of children in the early years.