As interventions increasingly emphasize early child care settings, it is necessary to understand the state regulatory context that provides guidelines for outdoor physical activity and safety and sets standards for child care environments.
Researchers reviewed regulations for child care facilities for 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. We compared state regulations with national standards for 17 physical activity- and safety-related items for outdoor playground settings outlined in Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards: Guidelines for Out-of-Home Child Care Programs (CFOC). State regulations were coded as fully, partially or not addressing the CFOC standard and state-level summary scores were calculated.
On average, state regulations fully addressed one-third of 17 CFOC standards in regulations for centers (34%) and family child care homes (27%). Data suggest insufficient attention to outdoor play area proximity and size, equipment height, surfacing, and inspections.
Considerable variation exists among state regulations related to physical activity promotion and injury prevention within outdoor play areas. Many states' regulations do not comply with published national health and safety standards. Enhancing regulations is one component of a policy approach to promoting safe, physically active child care settings.
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Cradock and O'Donnell are with the Dept of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Benjamin is with the Dept of Ambulatory Care and Prevention, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Walker is with the Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, National Association of State Boards of Education, Arlington, VA. Slining is with the Dept of Nutrition, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.