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Call for Papers

Sport and physical activity for toddlers and preschool children - a contested terrain?

Over the last decades, an increasing number of toddlers and pre-schoolers have been introduced to organized sports and physical activity. Furthermore, there has been a growth in the offering of community sponsored as well as for-profit programs targeting this group (Fraiser-Thomas and Safai, 2018). Age, and the understanding of what is a “proper” age, to start with sport has changed. Today physical activity is positively associated with improved motor skills, cardiometabolic health indicators, psychosocial health and decreased adiposity (Timmons et.al 2012) and early childhood years are seen as an especially important period in life where healthy behaviours and habits, such as physical activity, are developed (Gunner, Atkinson, Nichols, & Eissa, 2005). Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep have been developed for children under 5 years of age by WHO to counteract a sedentary lifestyle. Whether sport shall be recommended for young children is, however, questioned. Not the least as there is an inherent tension in children’s sport. On one hand, sport is seen as something good, for promoting the right values and norms, health and education. On the other hand, a growing body of research has problematized children’s participation in sport as something that may harm children (Anderson, 2013; Donnelly, Kerr, Heron, & DiCarlo, 2016).

While the interest for physical activity (PA) and pre-schoolers is growing, there seems to be less research focusing on organized sport activities for toddlers (Fraiser-Thomas & Safari, 2018; (Calero, Ceasar; Beesley, Theresa; Fraser-Thomas, 2018; Harlow, Wolman, & Fraser-Thomas, 2018)). Therefore, the editors encourage the submission of papers on the theme of the participation of toddlers and pre-schoolers in organized sport, for-profit programs and physical activity from a range of temporal, geographic, methodological and thematic perspectives. Some interesting questions for submitted papers can be: Can children be too young for sport? Who benefits from early participation in sport? Is early sport participation violating children’s rights? How does digitalization of childhood influence children’s participation in sport and physical activity? Is early recruitment of children the first step towards developing future athletes? How does social construction of gender influence our understanding of children’s sport? In addition, studies may address questions relating to children's participation and

  • Politics, policies and legal aspects (including CRC)
  • Governance, management, economy and commercialization
  • Inclusion and exclusion, in relation to gender, class, ethnicity, race, religion, disability.
  • Coaching and leadership
  • Social constructions of childhood and parenthood
  • Media/ social media/ digitalization

Guest Editors

Feel free to email the Editors with any questions about this Special Issue.

Professor Susanna Hedenborg, Malmö University ([email protected])

Associate Professor Oskar Solenes, Molde University College

Submission guidelines

Manuscripts for the special section should be submitted before May 1st, 2020 to facilitate full consideration.

Submissions can be made through our online submissions system: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/fcss 

In the submission process, authors should highlight in their cover letter that the submission is for the “Sport and physical activity for toddlers and preschool children” special issue of Sport in Society and choose “Special Issue Paper” as the “Manuscript Type.”

All manuscripts will be subject to peer review under the supervision of the Special Issue Editors.  

Submit a Manuscript


Latest Tweets From Taylor & Francis Research Insights

Anderson, E. (2013). i9 and the Transformation of Youth Sport. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 37(1), 97–111. https://doi.org/10.1177/0193723512455925

Calero, Ceasar; Beesley, Theresa; Fraser-Thomas, J. (2018). 済無No Title No Title. PHEnex Journal, 10(1), 1689–1699. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

Donnelly, P., Kerr, G., Heron, A., & DiCarlo, D. (2016). Protecting youth in sport: an examination of harassment policies. International Journal of Sport Policy, 8(1), 33–50. https://doi.org/10.1080/19406940.2014.958180

Fraser-Thomas, Jessica, and Parissa Safai (2018). “Tykes and ‘Timbits’: A Critical Examination of Organized Sport Programs for Preschoolers”.  Dionigi, Rylee Ann, and Michael Gard. (eds). Sport and physical activity across the lifespan: critical perspectives. Palgrave, Macmillan, 93-116.

Gunner, K. B., Atkinson, P. M., Nichols, J., & Eissa, M. A. (2005). Health promotion strategies to encourage physical activity in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19(4), 253–258. Retrieved from

Harlow, M., Wolman, L., & Fraser-Thomas, J. (2018). Should toddlers and preschoolers participate in organized sport? A scoping review of developmental outcomes associated with young children’s sport participation. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1080/1750984X.2018.1550796