The Canadian Active After School Partnership (CAASP) was formed to collaboratively identify how the after school period can be used more effectively to increase the levels of physical activity and healthy eating by Canadian children and youth.
CAASP was interested in speaking with parents and caregivers to understand how they perceive after school programs, what program and delivery components they value, and what barriers they confront in supporting the participation of their children. Of particular interests was parental needs relating to children and youth with disabilities, girls and young women, Aboriginal communities, and newcomers to Canada.
An online survey was launched on January 8, 2013 and closed on February 11, 2013. The survey was primarily completed by parents and caregivers as a result of receiving a newsletter from an organization they were associated with (81%). A total of 2,567 completed surveys were received. The final survey data included an oversample of parents and caregivers of children with disabilities, Aboriginal parents and caregivers, and lower income parents and caregivers.
Perhaps the most critical finding is that while parents and caregivers were aware of the importance of physical activity for their children, and this was a factor in decisions around after school activities, children often did not get the recommended amount of physical activity (an hour or more a day) each day during the after school time period. Coupled with the perception of many parents and caregivers that they were satisfied with their after school programming, this might mean that parents and caregivers might know physical activity is important but may simply not know how much physical activity their children should be getting each day or how much is recommended for healthy development.
On a related note, only three in ten parents and caregivers were very satisfied with their children’s level of physical activity, leaving seven in ten parents and caregivers who were not very satisfied with this level of activity. There is a clear opportunity here to clarify how much physical activity is needed.
Aboriginal parents and caregivers did not hold perceptions that were significantly different than other parents and caregivers on most issues in this survey. This could be related to the sample that was included; the high focus on urban respondents made it unlikely that First Nations parents and caregivers on reserves were included in this survey or Inuit parents and caregivers from remote communities. Further research is warranted.
Parents and caregivers of children with a disability were more likely to say that there was a lack of quality programs and activities and that their child needed more specialized caregivers. And overall, children with a disability were less physically active than children without a disability.
Immigrant parents and caregivers were often less satisfied than Canadian-born parents and caregivers about after school programming in general, about their children’s physical activity, their development of fundamental movement skills, their healthy eating. There is an opportunity to investigate the goals that immigrant parents and caregivers have for after school programming and from their children.
Results of this survey suggest there are several opportunities to address gaps in information and to advance participation in physical activity and healthy eating during the after school time period for all children.
Click here to read the report (PDF 4MB)