Almost half of preschoolers don’t play outdoors – The Chart
The early years of childhood are crucial for learning and development. It should involve a lot of outdoor physical activity and play time, but it’s not always the case.
According to a study presented this week in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, nearly half of children aged 3 to 5 are not taken outside by a parent or caregiver.
“There is a lot of room for improvement in the way parents prioritize their time and what they do during the time they spend with their preschoolers,” said lead author of the study, Dr. Pooja Tandon of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children play outdoors as much as possible, at least 60 minutes a day. Physical activity is not only good for weight control and preventing childhood obesity; previous research also suggests that playing outdoors improves motor development, vision, and vitamin D levels.
“There is some evidence that play – just a kind of act of playing – is important for the development of children’s social skills and their interactions with peers,” Tandon said. “Being outside gives kids the opportunity to play in a way they might not have when they’re inside.”
In the study, researchers studied nearly 9,000 preschoolers across the country and asked their parents how often they took their children to play outside.
Mothers took their children to play more often than fathers. Working outside the home was often a barrier for children to play outside, but some parents who worked at home did not take their children out either.
Additionally, the researchers found that mothers who exercised often were more likely to take their children outdoors, as opposed to those who reported no exercise.
The study authors also noted that girls had fewer opportunities for outdoor recreation than boys. A study published in January came to similar conclusions.
“As guardians or parents of daughters, [we should] rethinking the way we dress our girls and what we encourage them to do in regards to play so that they have the same opportunity to play outdoors as the boys, ”Tandon said.
For all parents, Tandon offers some suggestions.
First, check with your child’s caregiver or daycare to make sure there is enough time outside. Make sure your child gets it; if not, defend it. By preschool age, 80% of the children in the study were in daycare; preschoolers in the United States spend an average of 32 hours per week in child care.
Second, Tandon suggests finding new and creative ways around obstacles, perhaps through social and community networks.
“I think parents want to do what’s best for their children and I hope this study serves as a reminder that playing outside with your children is also an important part of what we do as parents,” said added Tandon.