Call for Papers | “Sport and physical activity for toddlers and preschool children: a contested terrain?” | Special Issue of Sport in Society. Call ends May 1, 2020

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 (Fraser-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 et al. 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 et al. 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 (Calero, Beesley, and Fraser-Thomas 2018; Fraser-Thomas and Safai 2018; Harlow, Wolman, and 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

Submission guidelines

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

Submissions can be made through our online submissions system:

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.

Editorial information

    • Guest editor: Susanna Hedenborg, Malmö University, Sweden.
    • Guest editor: Oskar Solenes, Molde University College, Norway.


    1. Anderson, E. 2013. “i9 and the Transformation of Youth Sport.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 37 (1): 97111. doi:10.1177/0193723512455925.
    2. Calero, C., T. Beesley, and J. Fraser-Thomas. 2018. “済無No Title No Title.” PHEnex Journal10 (1): 16891699. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004.
    3. Donnelly, P., G. Kerr, A. Heron, and D. DiCarlo. 2016. “Protecting Youth in Sport: An Examination of Harassment Policies.” International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics 8 (1): 3350. doi:10.1080/19406940.2014.958180.
    4. Fraser-Thomas, J., and P. Safai. 2018. “Tykes and ‘Timbits’: A Critical Examination of Organized Sport Programs for Preschoolers.” In Sport and Physical Activity across the Lifespan: Critical Perspectives, edited by Rylee Ann Dionigi and Michael Gard, 93116. London, New York: Palgrave, Macmillan.
    5. Gunner, K. B., P. M. Atkinson, J. Nichols, and M. A. Eissa. 2005. “Health Promotion Strategies to Encourage Physical Activity in Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers.” Journal of Pediatric Health Care 19 (4): 253258.
    6. Harlow, M., L. Wolman, and J. Fraser-Thomas. 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. 1. doi:10.1080/1750984X.2018.1550796.
    7. Timmons, B. W., A. G. LeBlanc, V. Carson, S. Connor Gorber, C. Dillman, and I. Janssen. et al. 2012. “Systematic review of physical activity and health in the early yrats (aged 0-4 years).” Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 37 (4): 773792. doi:10.1139/h2012-070.
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