Parents are Obstacles to Children’s Playtime


The February issue of Pediatrics, published online on January 4th, includes a new study on why children in day care are sedentary.  The conclusion suggests that it is the parents rather than the care providers who are mostly at fault.

The focus of the study, done by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, was on day centers and the play time of the children who enroll.  Previous research had exposed that three quarters of children who are preschool aged only spend two to three percent of their time energetically playing.  The question in this study was why the percentage of playtime was so low.

The study looked at 34 racially and demographically diverse daycare centers in the greater Cincinnati area.  Their conclusions were threefold:

First, providers indicated to the researchers that pressure from parents was exerted to keep their children from activities that might harm the child or lead to an injury.  Parents often voiced the threat of litigation.

Next, academics was a greater focus for many parents than playtime.

Finally, providers indicated that funds were too limited to purchase up-to-code safe, outdoor equipment. And, while “safer” playgrounds were sometimes within walking distances, the children did not find them as interesting as other playgrounds not up to code.

Many providers said the first question they were asked by parents at the end of the day is “what did little Johnny learn today?” instead of “how did things go?”

As someone who taught developmental psychology and has worked with children for 20 years, I must tell you I am scratching my head at these findings.  Much research has shown that children can concentrate and learn better after brief periods of vigorous activity.  So ‘active time’ does not need to come at the expense of time dedicated to academics and learning.

Second, the chief thing they learn during this age is how to negotiate with their peers and how to interact appropriately.  This is normal in regards to major theories of play.

Finally, the idea of skipping or playing tag or general motor movement allows for greater cognition given the neurological development of the time period.

The idea of play seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way.

Related Stories:

Recess or Arts Education?

Chicago Public Schools Add 36 Minutes to High School Day

5 Reasons Children Need Time to Play At School


Photo credit: madmetal


Jane L.
Jane L6 years ago

There is much to learn from children in developing or third world nations where they are eager to go to school, and when it is time to play, they do so freely on the fields without shoes or care in the world for this or that technical consideration that we have in the West. The inhibitive mindset of adults in the West seems to be a detriment to the carefree attitudes kids need in order to foster fulfilling playtime.

New G.
W. C6 years ago

Thank you.

ryan b.
Ryan B7 years ago

Sure parents are the problem. They are more concerned with their playtime than their kids' playtime. Parents want their kids to be in every activity and hopefully someday they will make it big so that the parents can continue to live vicariously through the kids. Parents today are not real parents. They are buddies. If parents were actually parents and disciplined their brats this country would be a lot safer place to be.

Sophia M.
Sophia M7 years ago

Most parents today are so afraid of all the bad things that could happen to children while they play, that they forget what could happen that is good. When I was little, I would always play and if I got hurt,I would cry a little bit and then get back up and keep going.

marc page
Marc P7 years ago

Parents have been propagandized into being absolutely terrified of EVERYTHING when it comes to their children. This over protectiveness has already created at least one generation of children who are completely unable to deal with adversity and are incapable of defending themselves. This is shameful and extremely damaging to our culture, country and families.

Alice N.
Alice Neilson7 years ago

And believe it or not, while children play, they are actually learning! They also imagine, create, think, interact with others, solve problems. Childhood should be a time for fun and play, learning there is joy in life.

jayasri amma
jayasri amma7 years ago

yes.thank you for post

june t.
reft h7 years ago

how did we survive childhood without all these restrictions! glad I'm not a kid today...

Ryder W.
Ryder W7 years ago

glad i was never put in day care. 90% of my childhood was energetic, spontaneous playing. that probably explains why the kids that DID go to day care after school were more wild and energetic during class...they had no chance to get it out of their systems.

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V7 years ago

Don’t climb that tree, you could fall and get hurt. Don’t swing so high or you will fall and get hurt. Put that helmet on and don’t forget to wear your knee pads, ETC, ETC. Then there is the fact that few children are neighborhood children anymore, the way we were. We played all over the neighborhood and every parent was our boss and protector as long as we were in their yard. Children need other children to play with AWAY from the over protective parents at times. You are their parents and they love you but they need FRIENDS!!!!!

The next time you drive through a neighborhood take the time and see how many children you see playing in a group. Listen for the laughter that used to be a common sound and understand what we have done to our future. When it takes both parents working just to put food in the table and a roof over their heads, children lose and so do we.