Interview - Dr Colin MacAdam

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Managing director of Playforce, a supplier of outdoor play and learning equipment for nurseries and primary schools.


What prompted you to launch the Combating Childhood Obesity campaign?

For over 15 years, Playforce has designed outdoor solutions in support of the physical, social and education development of children. During this period, the impact of sedentary lifestyles and poor diet has meant progress on tackling the blight of obesity has been limited, despite the existence of extensive research into the benefits of an active, healthy outdoor way of life. From a very early age, physical movement contributes to the development of the brain as well as the health and wellbeing of the child, so investing time and resources to this critical area must be a priority. We need action now and raising awareness and delivering solutions is what we are all about.

What are the key findings from your research?

There was almost total agreement that the key to lasting success in combating childhood obesity is to provide better training and information, including practical resources, combined with a more consistent, understandable Government message. Additionally, ensuring active learning and play is fully integrated in the EYFS and Primary curriculum is a priority. Clearly there is a feeling parental support is critical to removing barriers to success.

What can early years practitioners do to tackle the problem?

The health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor play are well researched, so a simple but effective objective should be to maximise children's opportunity for active outdoor play. Given the right facilities, this will involve exercise, developing skills such as balance, gross and fine motor skills as well as burning off those calories. Early education on healthy foods and outdoor activities, involving both children and parents, delivers continuity and ensures best practice is sustained at home.

What are the next steps?

Clearly, there is no short-term fix to this problem. However, we would welcome engagement with other like-minded organisations to share information and discuss what practical, constructive actions we can take. As a member of both the Association of Play Industries and the Federation of Sport and Play Associations, I am delighted both take a responsible position on lobbying Government for the promotion of children's sport and play. Playforce recently launched a 'pedometer challenge', with the support of settings and schools, whereby we measure and compare activity rates of children during a typical day.

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