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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Do Children Play Outside Anymore?


I remember growing up and playing outside was an everyday thing.  All children played outside every day.  We couldn’t wait to get off the bus, change into play clothes and head outside.  Weekends were spent outdoors the entire day.  When my children were growing up they would spend hours outside playing with their friends in the neighborhood.   Today, it is mostly silent outside.  Luckily, some kids still get the pleasure and health benefits of playing outside every day.  Sadly, many children are kept inside, hour after hour, day after day.  One organization now says kids have a vitamin N deficiency.  Or a nature deficiency as they never get to play outside and enjoy nature. 

These observations are not just borne out by looking around one’s neighborhood, they have also been confirmed in a recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (April 2, 2012).    The researchers studied 8950 preschoolers.   Here is a summary of their findings:
  • 51% went outside at least once a day with a parent
  • 58% not in child care went outside every day
As shown,  about half of all preschoolers were not taken outside by their parents even once a day.  Girls were least likely to be taken outside. 

Why is this a problem?   For one, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “children play outside as much as possible.”   When children play outdoors, they are much more likely to be physically active, resulting in a healthier lifestyle and less chance of becoming obese.  Additionally, physical activity has other health benefits such as reducing risks of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and promoting mental health.   Playing outside also provides children with vitamin D as our bodies can make vitamin D when exposed to the sun.  University of California Berkeley reported that playing outside may improve the vision of children as they focus their eyes on things far away and not just close up as they do playing video games. 

An article in Healthy Living in the Free Lance Star called Playing Outdoors is Vital for Kids (Oct. 10, 2010), noted, “Today’s youth spend just four to seven minutes outside each day in unstructured outdoor play such as climbing trees, building forts or playing tag, studies show. Yet they spend more than seven hours each day in front of a screen.”

If you have children, are they playing outside EVERY DAY?   If not, it would be a good time to start.   

A  Whole Child Report stated that outdoor play leads to happier kids.  “Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.  Outside play teaches kids to collaborate and solve problems and helps them become more confident, creative and even nicer.”  (Playing Outdoors is Vital to Kids, Free Lance Star, Oct. 2010). 

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