Findings from a recent study, available on line in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, point out that nearly half of our preschool children are not getting enough daily outdoor play.
Researchers conducted a study that analyzed data previously collected in a long-term U.S. study that highlights something already know from other studies-girls have fewer opportunities for outdoor play than boys.
The research team looked at statistics on the outdoor-activity routines of 8,950 children born in 2001 who were tracked through enrollment in kindergarten. The data were deemed to be nationally representative, reflecting the behavior of an estimated 4 million kids.
Researchers interviewed each child’s mother on the frequency and kind of outdoor play experience her child had at 9 months, 2 years and 4 years, and then again once enrolled in kindergarten.
Researchers found that 51 percent of the kids had a daily routine of parent-supervised outdoor play. Girls got less daily outdoor exercise.
According to findings, race was a factor. Children from white families got substantially more outdoor play than children with Asian, black or Hispanic mothers. Asian mothers were 49 percent less likely to take their children outdoors for play, black mothers were 41 percent less likely and Hispanic mothers were 20 percent less likely.
TV viewing habits of children, mothers’ marital status, neighborhood safety issues, or family income levels did not affect findings.
The study authors report that the American Academy of Pediatrics asks doctors take a proactive role in encouraging routine physical activity among kids, particularly outdoor activity, which can be critical to helping children develop motor skills, as well as promoting vision and mental acuity.
“I want to encourage parents to talk to all their child’s caregivers, and to ask about their outdoor playtime experience in the same way they would normally ask about how much their child ate that day and what they learned,” said Pooja Tandon, M.D., M.P.H., pediatrician and researcher, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and acting assistant professor, department of pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle, the lead researcher of the study.
Rahil Briggs, a child psychologist with Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, in New York City, agreed that “There’s a very real need for growing children to have outdoor play.”
“Unfortunately, I’m not too surprised with these findings, because of what we already know about the obesity epidemic in this country and all the sedentary activities our children are partaking in with the use of video games, TV, the iPad and all of that,” she said.
“Parents need to change their thinking about outdoor play as a luxury that they can get in for their kids on a Saturday, to something along the lines of a necessity. Many preschoolers are not getting daily outdoor activities,” Briggs said. “We need to know that it has an important impact on our children’s physical health and also on their behavioral development.”
(SOURCES: Pooja Tandon, M.D., M.P.H., pediatrician and researcher, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and acting assistant professor, department of pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle; Rahil Briggs, Psy.D., child psychologist, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, New York City; April 2, 2012, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine online)
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