Measuring Activity Patterns of Young Children – a Focus on Exercise in Early Childhood in Australia

Publication type

Conference Paper


ISA - RC33 Research Committee on Logic and Methodology Conference


Publication date

August 20, 2004


Social scientists have long recognised that experiences in early life have significant impacts on children's performance in school and development of life skills. While many industrialised countries have conducted longitudinal child development studies, only one such study in Qu├ębec has collected time use information from infants. Time use studies in Italy and Bulgaria have collected diaries from children aged less than five. This paper first reviews the current experiences collecting time use information for very young children, then discusses the development and testing of time diaries designed to monitor daily activities of children growing up in Australia. As with previous studies, the main carers of the sampled children complete the diaries. To minimise respondent burden, the diaries follow a modified version of the light-diary format, which only requires carers to draw lines across time slots to indicate occurrence of precoded activities. Unlike previous studies of young children, however, this diary aims to collect information on exposure to sunlight and exposure to social situations where infants learn both language and social skills. The diaries also collect information on the degree to which young children were physically active, interaction with pets, and which people provided care at which times of the day. To capture such details, the diaries cover 19 primary activities, and 23 categories of context information, covering where the child was, who else did each activity with the child, who else was present, whether parents paid for the child to undertake an activity, and when the child used a computer. The diary data allow the analysis of numerous questions relating to early life experiences. We focus on the physical activity patterns of young children in our review of results from the initial pilot and dress rehearsal testing of the diary instruments. We consider both the physical activities performed by children, and also the degree to which parents take children from place to place in push chairs or bicycle seats, as opposed to travelling with children in car seats or on public transport.



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