PLAYCE study

Play Spaces and Environments for Children’s Physical Activity and Health

The PLAY Spaces and Environments for Children’s Physical Activity (PLAYCE) Study investigates which features of the early childhood education and care, home and neighbourhood environment promote physical activity, health and development in children aged two to five years.

Physical activity has many health benefits for young children, including developing healthy bones, maintaining a healthy weight, and improving cognitive and social development. Yet, only one in three pre-school (aged two to five years old) children achieve the recommended three hours of daily physical play.

Early childhood education and care is an important setting for promoting physical activity as many young Australian children attend care. PLAYCE is the first large scale study of its kind in WA. Our research team is working with the State’s early childhood education and care sector to ensure its findings inform best practice recommendations to support children’s physical activity, health and development.

This policy will be in line with the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care and the Early Years Learning Framework.

We aim to answer the following questions through the PLAYCE study:

  • How physically active (and inactive) are young children in WA?
  • How does the early childhood education and care environment influence children’s physical activity, health and development?
  • How can we assist educators in supporting children’s physical activity, health and development?

The PLAYCE Study is supported by funding from the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway) Research Project Grant and the National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship.

Research team leader: Associate Professor Hayley Christian

UWA Associate Professor Hayley Christian’s research focuses on improving children’s physical activity levels, health and development. She examines health and wellbeing through multi-level interventions focused on the child, family, social and built environment. This includes identifying and testing strategies to create healthy early childhood education and care environments, while investigating how the home and neighbourhood environment shapes children’s health and development. Other members of the research team include Associate Professor Michael Rosenberg, Associate Professor Leanne Lester, Dr Bryan Boruff, Dr Ashleigh Thornton, Ms Clover Maitland and Ms Joanne Powell from UWA, Dr Gina Trapp from the Telethon Kids Institute, Professor Stewart Trost from Queensland University of Technology, Associate Professor Jasper Schipperijn from the University of Southern Denmark, Mr Griffin Longley from Nature Play WA and Ms Shelley Prendergast from the Australian Childcare Alliance, WA.

Preventing chronic disease through early intervention

PhD opportunities

The PLAYCE research projects available include:

  • using GPS and accelerometer collected data to understand where and how young children move around their home and neighbourhood
  • evidence-informed physical activity policy for early childhood education and care
  • qualitative research with children, parents, staff and key stake holders in the childcare setting
  • interventions to improve physical activity levels and health of children attending childcare

The requirements for this PhD opportunity include:

  • the ability to conduct quantitative and qualitative research
  • the ability to undertake statistical analysis (SPSS and/or SAS)
  • excellent writing skills
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • good interpersonal communication skills

Students are encouraged to arrange a time to meet and discuss potential topics and scholarship opportunities with Associate Professor Hayley Christian.


For more information about this project, see the readings below:


We are collaborating with a number of organisations:

  • Goodstart Early Learning
  • Nature Play Australia
  • Australian Childcare Alliance
  • Minderoo Foundation – Collaborate for Kids (CoLab)
  • Department of Health, WA
  • Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, WA
  • UWA Childcare
  • Great Beginnings Early Education for Life
  • Buggles Early Learning and Kindy
  • Jellybeans Child Care & Kindy
  • Maragon Early Learning
  • MercyCare Early Learning
  • Sonas Early Learning and Care
  • Little Learners Early development & Education Centre
  • Ngala Early Learning and Development
  • Early Childhood Australia (WA)
  • Playgroup WA
  • Kidsafe
  • Western Australian Local Government Authority
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Contact Dr Hayley Christian