The answer is “Yes,” according to two studies published recently in the journal Early Child Development and Care.
Researchers at Oregon State University confirmed that young children in this country are increasingly sedentary, spending too much time sitting and looking at electronic screens. But they have also found that parents play a major factor in whether young children are on the move.
It’s not enough to tell your children to get outside, you need to get out there with them!
In one study, Oregon State University researchers (OSU) looked at 200 families with children ages 2 to 4 to determine how parenting style affects children’s physical-activity levels.
Overall, they found that children who had “neglectful” parents, or ones who weren’t home often and self-reported spending less time with their kids, were getting 30 minutes more screen time on an average each week day.
More disturbing to lead author David Schary – all of the children ages 2 to 4 were sitting more than several hours per day.
“Across all parenting styles, we saw anywhere from four to five hours a day of sedentary activity,” he said. “This is waking hours not including naps or feeding. Some parents counted quiet play – sitting and coloring, working on a puzzle, etc. – as a positive activity, but this is an age where movement is essential.”
In a separate study, Schary, a doctoral student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU, and Bradley Cardinal, a professor of social psychology of physical activity at OSU, looked at the same group of participants and asked about ways parent support and promote active play. They found that parents who actively played with their kids had the most impact, but that any level of encouragement, even just watching their child play or driving them to an activity – made a difference.
Interestingly parents who were less participatory during the week days did not make up for it during the weekends. Instead, sedentary time increased nearly one hour each weekend day.
Seems like common sense, right? If you want your kids to value exercise and the great outdoors, nothing sends a stronger message than if they see their parents or caregivers outside having fun. Actions really do speak much louder than words.
Go ahead: play in the dirt, roll down a grassy bank, find slimy slugs after the rain, take a walk on the beach. Enthusiasm is contagious! As experts agree, having preschoolers be active is imperative for establishing healthy, active lifestyle patterns, self-awareness, social acceptance, and even brain and cognitive development.”
What do you think?