Tykes and ‘Timbits’: A Critical Examination of Organized Sport Programs for Preschoolers

  • Jessica Fraser-Thomas
  • Parissa Safai


In recent years, there has been a trend of children participating in sport at earlier ages, coupled with increased program availability and enrolments for children under the age of six. Despite growing concern regarding preschooler physical activity levels, specific attention to sport has been limited. In this chapter, we draw upon original research among 8 childcare providers, 19 parents, and 57 preschoolers (aged 2–5 years) in central Canada, to explore the perceived objectives and outcomes of preschooler sport. Interview and focus group data was analyzed through inductive and deductive techniques, guided by key concepts of the Developmental Model of Sport Participation and Long Term Athlete Development Model. Findings reflect perceived objectives and outcomes of preschooler sport paralleling those of youth sport, with participants speaking most prominently about sport as a platform for psychosocial and life skill development (i.e., interpersonal skills, confidence, competence, being a team player, learning to win and lose), in addition to being a pathway to physical health and motor skill development; however, there was often little consensus on whether developmental outcomes were actually attained, and what the mechanisms and processes were within preschooler sport, which facilitated such development. As such, we question the relevance of organized sport for preschoolers, while also highlighting a need for further research to best optimize preschoolers’ development through sport—a field that remains in its infancy. Given current participation trends are unlikely to reverse, we conclude by integrating participants’ insights, to make preliminary recommendations for improved preschooler sport programming.



Support for this project was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, through the Sport Participation Research Initiative. The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Theresa Beesley, Sunita Tanna, and Lauren Tristani for their involvement in the data collection process of this project.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica Fraser-Thomas
    • 1
  • Parissa Safai
    • 1
  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada

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