Play time for preschoolers is essential, study finds – The Chart


Preschoolers in daycares aren’t spending enough time playing outdoors and just being kids, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics this week.

According to the researchers, three-quarters of American children between the ages of 3 and 5 are in daycare and, like most children, they need to be more physically active. But children who are not in daycare may also lack active time outside.

“Daily physical activity is essential for preschoolers both for preventing obesity and for their development – their physical development and cognitive development,” says study author Dr Kristen Copeland. of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.

Dr. Copeland and her team of researchers wanted to know why the kids weren’t more active, so they spoke to staff at 34 daycares in Cincinnati. They found that the centers often emphasized classroom learning to the detriment of outdoor recreation. Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics say this is not limited to Cincinnati, but also occurs in many parts of the country.

“We were somewhat surprised to find this in this young age group,” says Copeland. “But teachers told us that parents – both high-income and low-income parents – seemed more concerned about what their children were learning than whether they were going out and mastering fundamental gross motor skills. “

When kids run, jump and learn to ride a tricycle, they don’t just exercise their bodies, they also exercise their minds, which is why play time is so important, experts say.

“If you are [a child] take turns and you play ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’, and you run outside playing ‘Hide and Seek’ and counting to 10, you have a lot of cognitive skills added in there, ”explains the Dr Laura Jana. “They apply what they learned from a book; they plan and develop or invent rules. All of those things are cognitive skills. “

Jana is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the AAP Executive Committee for Early Childhood Education.

Researchers found that staff and parent concerns about playground safety contributed to more sedentary activities among young people. Some parents even asked their child to stay indoors instead of going outside to play. Another factor contributing to children having less play time are state safety guidelines for play structures, which have become more stringent over time, making some equipment less difficult or interesting for children. .

Children tended to either use the equipment less or climb on it in ways that were not intended, such as on the sides of support poles. Budget constraints have also prevented some centers from purchasing updated playground equipment or providing adequate spaces for children to run and play.

How much play time do children need? Pediatric Experts Recommend that preschoolers get 90 to 120 minutes of gross motor activity per day and be taken outdoors twice per day. But Copeland found that children spent only 2-3% of their time playing vigorously during an 8-hour day in child care.

According to the CDC, 17% of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 are obese, so it is important to intervene early with more physical activity.

Copeland suggests parents get involved and help shape childcare practices on physical activity. First of all, start by dressing the children appropriately. Closed-toe shoes in hot weather and coats and mittens in cold weather are essential for safe outdoor play. And that old wives’ tale of catching a cold in freezing weather just isn’t true, so let your child participate. Also, when looking for child care, go explore the playground and ask the staff if the kids have a place to play during inclement weather.

Learning in the classroom, such as mastering shapes, colors, and letters, is important for school readiness, but exploring the outdoors and simply being a child is also vital.

Jana explains: “Safety is important, supervision is important and academics too, but gambling should be raised to the same level as early literacy … gambling is not on this list, it is almost too much. simple.”

What you learn in preschool and kindergarten can help you be successful later in life, says Copeland.


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