Most children in day care don’t get enough exercise, according to a study published earlier this month in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Researchers headed by Kristen Copeland of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that children in day care spend only 2 to 3 percent of their time in vigorous physical activities.
Chicago Preschoolers Must Spend At Least An Hour Exercising Each Day
They should take a lesson from Chicago, where the city’s Department of Public Health now requires all children who attend preschool or day centers to spend at least an hour a day participating in physical activity.
And last summer, as part of the effort to battle childhood obesity, the British government issued new guidelines recommending three hours of daily exercise for children under the age of 5.
In this recent study, which focused on 3- to 5-year-olds, Dr. Copeland and her researchers interviewed 49 child care providers from 34 centers in Cincinnati. They discovered that safety concerns, financial issues and an emphasis on academics were the principal reasons why children in day care get so little exercise.
Fear That Their Children Might Sustain Injuries
“[Study] participants relayed pressure from parents not to allow their children to get injured while under their watch, and at times were asked to keep children from participating in vigorous activity to keep them from being injured,” the study said.
“This is particularly concerning, because daily physical activity is not only essential for healthy weight maintenance, but also for practicing and learning fundamental gross motor skills and socioemotional and cognitive skills,” the researchers said.
The time children too young to go to school spend in day care may be the only opportunity for physical activity and outdoor play, the study indicated.
“Because many of the children were in care for such long hours, there was little free time for outside activities,” the researchers said. “This was particularly the case for parents who worked multiple jobs and/or did not earn sufficient income to afford outside extracurricular activities.”
Children Need Outside Play!
There are so many reasons why children need time to play outside: they are happier, healthier, learn to interact with their peers, and of course play is essential to their cognitive and physical well-being. Active play is a crucial part of child development.
That’s why I wrote my book, Get Out! 150 Easy Ways For Kids and Grown-Ups To Get Outside and Build A Greener Future, which is packed with user-friendly ideas for the whole family to enjoy the great outdoors.
One reason I decided to write this book was that schools have moved away from giving kids recess time and cut back on physical education. Play allows children to be creative, and helps them learn to cooperate, overcome challenges and negotiate with others. But schools have reduced the time allocated to physical education.
Prioritize Academics For Preschoolers?
Day care providers told researchers they felt pressure from parents “to prioritize academic classroom learning over outdoor and active playtime.” The pressure is applied uniformly by parents of all socio-economic status, the researchers were told.
As a teacher, I can see every day that children need time to relax and play, get some oxygen into their brains, in order to be able to learn effectively. And the parents of these preschoolers need to understand that young children learn through playing; it’s not an either/or situation.
Meanwhile, the thought that parents of 3-year-olds think their youngsters need to devote more time to academics is disturbing. For so many reasons, young children need to spend time playing outside.
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