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A qualitative study reporting maternal perceptions of the importance of play for healthy growth and development in the first two years of life

Prioreschi, A.
Wrottesley, S.V.
Cohen, E.
Norris, S.A.
Slemming, W.
Background: In order for infants and toddlers to meet recommended movement guidelines, their caregivers need to encourage play daily. This study used a qualitative approach to understand how mothers perceive and promote play and physical activity during the first 2 years of life. Methods: Mothers with children between 0 and 24 months were recruited from the SAMRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit in Soweto, South Africa. 19 mothers agreed to participate and were grouped into three focus group discussions (FGDs) by age of the child: 0-6-months, 7-14-months, and 15-24-months. Thereafter, 12 mothers (4 from each FGD) were selected for inclusion in in-depth interviews (IDIs). After coding and theme/sub-theme identification had been completed for all IDIs, a process of cross-cutting theme identification and confirmation across FGDs and IDIs was carried out. Results: The mothers were (mean ± SD) 27 (6) years old. All mothers had attended secondary school, but only nine had matriculated. Only one mother was married (and lived with the child's father), and the majority (n = 15) were unemployed. Most children were male (63%) and were aged 11 (7) months. Four main themes emerged: 1) Physical activity as an indicator for health, 2) Promoting play and development, 3) Gender bias in play, and 4) Screen time. Conclusions: This study showed that developmental attainment was the most important outcome for mothers, and so focussing intervention content on the promotion of child development through movement is advised. Screen time was freely available to children, and we recommend educating mothers on the movement guidelines, with a particular focus on the detrimental effects of screen time in this age group. Mothers reported many barriers to promoting play, and these are essential to consider when designing interventions in this context, in order to allow for equal opportunities for play to be provided to all children.
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Early childhood development,Low-to-middle income country,Movement behaviours,Qualitative,SDG-04 Quality education
Prioreschi A, Wrottesley SV, Slemming W, Cohen E, Norris SA. A qualitative study reporting maternal perceptions of the importance of play for healthy growth and development in the first two years of life. BMC Pediatr. 2020 Sep 9;20(1):428. doi: 10.1186/s12887-020-02321-4.
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