An educational program was designed and implemented with the aim to promote cycling for Kindergarten children.
Background & Objectives
Like many other countries, there is a dramatic decrease in the physical activity of children in Austria. This (often) leads to obesity, lack of co-ordination abilities and consequently to a higher risk of being involved in an accident. This is compounded by the fact that many children are driven to kindergarten in their parent’s car.
Kindergarten age is the perfect age to raise children’s enthusiasm for cycling and walking and to influence the mobility behaviour in further life. Children who have a positive attitude towards these ways of moving tend to ‘educate’ their parents to use bicycles more often because they are affected in an emotional way.
Within the EU-project LIFECYCLE a kindergarten programme was developed that consisted of:
- Cycling lessons: Every group received special bicycles (no pedals, no training wheels but pure bicycle scooters) to assist children to learn to cycle.
- Story telling: Children were also told stories about cycling and a special picture book was developed.
- Achievement certificates for those children that learned to cycle- “I can bike“
- Motivating activities for parents to reduce car trips to kindergartens.
In the Austrian City of Graz 46 public kindergartens (involving 115 children groups) implemented the program. In the following year private kindergartens also participated and in total 133 kindergartens participated, involving a total of around 8,700 children.
The main goals of this kindergarten program were to:
- Motivate children to learn how to cycle
- Train employees of kindergartens on how to implement the action
- Provide emotional context and material
- Turn the kindergarten environment into a reduced car area
- Reduce the number of parents driving their children to kindergarten
At the end of the program was carried out by organising a creativity competition among all participating kindergarten groups. They had to design a sculpture on cycling, with the best sculptures receiving prizes.
Results and conclusions
In the first year of the project 115 kindergarten groups were involved and approximately 1,500 children learned to cycle (53%) while the rest was already able to cycle. In the following year, when the private kindergartens were also included more than 8,700 children participated, and again more than 50% of them learned to cycle.
A survey among parents whose children participated in the programme found that
- They were all satisfied with the programme
- The numbers of parents who were cycling rose by 71%, which demonstrated how the children had influenced the behaviour of their parents
- The ‘status’ of cycling improved significantly in terms of indicators such as ‘fun’, comfortableness’, ‘speed’ and ‘health’
- 62% of the parents indicated that they talked about the program to their friends and families (multiplier effect).
Following this initial success, the programme will be offered to kindergartens as a regular annual event. This program is easy to apply and has a very good cost-benefit ratio. The approach to combine emotional elements (story telling) and training of skills (e.g. balance) proved to be successful. The method can be easily transferred to other cities.
See also: LIFECYCLE