Preschoolers (Especially Girls) Don’t Play Outside Enough

A new study, conducted by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, has found that almost half of American preschoolers are not getting enough parentally supervised outdoor playtime.

This comes on the heels of a study published last January in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, that finds most children in day care don’t get enough exercise.

Doesn’t it seem incredible that such studies exist? I mean, how hard can it be to get little kids to run around outdoors?

Preschool Girls 16 Percent Less Likely To Go Outside Than Boys

The research found the outdoor activities of preschool-aged children were too limited. The study looked at 8,950 kids in the U.S. who were in their final year before going to grade school and found that nearly half of them didn’t go outside with their parents to play every day, and it was girls who suffered the most. Preschool-aged girls were 16 percent less likely to be taken outdoors to play by their parents than the boys were.

The study’s lead author, pediatrician Pooja Tandom, suggests that it’s probably a combination of societal norms, boys demanding to go out more, and the fact that some people seem to think that girls aren’t into sports or being outside. But whatever the cause, something’s got to change, because, as Tandom says, “Children need outdoor time every day, and they need more outdoor play opportunities than they’re getting.”

“This study highlights something we already know from other studies, which is that girls in particular seem to have fewer opportunities for outdoor play than boys. We have to try to support girls in the same way we encourage boys to be active and to play outdoors,” added Dr. Tandon.

Children Cared For At Home More Likely To Be Couch Potatoes

From Time Healthland:

The research contains other disturbing findings. Minorities were far less likely to spend time on the playground with their parents than kids with white parents: Asian mothers were 49% less likely, black mothers 41% less likely and Hispanic mothers 20% less likely to venture outside with their kids. It’s probably not coincidence that minority children have a greater tendency to be overweight.

Children who are cared for at home also appear to be bigger couch potatoes. Although preschoolers should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, 42% of those who don’t regularly attend child care don’t go outside daily. Eighty percent of the kids in the study attended some sort of child care, averaging 28 hours a week there.

Active Moms Have Active Children

And here’s a very interesting finding: moms were more likely than dads were to make the kids venture outside, especially moms who are very active themselves. Moms who worked out more than four times per week were 50% more likely to get the kids outside at least once a day than moms who weren’t exercisers.

That makes sense to me – instead of just telling your kid to go outside, why not Get Out with her and have fun together? Active mom leads to active child.

Sadly, these findings are not terribly surprising, given what we know about the obesity epidemic in this country and all the sedentary activities our children are partaking in with the use of video games, TV, the iPad and computers.

But parents need to understand that spending time outdoors is important for their children. Lots of research has shown that being outside is good for motor development, for mental health and cognitive development, and also for creativity and imagination. Some of that comes from free play, which is lost when you have a more structured environment. If you’re outside, without a specific task in front of you, it gives your imagination a chance to take over, and that’s really important.

Let’s hear it for the Great Outdoors!

Related Stories

Preschoolers Need To Get Outside And Play!

Doctors Recommend Three Hours’ Daily Exercise For Young Kids

Recess Returns To Chicago Schools

Photo Credit: Jamie.Allison


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan6 years ago

Children should get out and share the realities of nature from an early age and parents should find time to guide them in the right direction.

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia6 years ago

i wish parents would realize how important outdoor playtime is, when i was a kid i loved it, i would just imagine i was an animal, or play in dirt, or whatever, i think it helps shape kids in a positive way

richa blue akasha
Raiin Blue6 years ago

.Interesting, thank you for sharing

Ronald N.
Ronald Nichols6 years ago

Now that I'm locked in an office all day I miss being a kid, at least there was recess or aftershool to look forward to running around outside.

Ronald N.
Ronald Nichols6 years ago

Sad, it's hard to imagine only one generation before we were all playing outside every chance we had, now with video games and the internet children's quality time outside has gone way down.

Suzy D.
Suzy D6 years ago

Over here in the UK they gave kids more work to do at school (and less time for play) about the same time as schools started selling off their playing fields for development in the 1980`s. I thank my mum for her foresight in moving the young family to a house backing on to a farmer`s fields, who incidentally didn`t mind us playing in them. I seeded my love for Nature right there. Kids must never be divorced from contact with their Mother Earth.

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

All of this makes sense and corresponds to what I've seen. It is sad how many kids now don't even *want* to go out and play in the mud when they've gotten used to playing inside on their DS or PS3 instead. It's the athletic moms who are more likely to say "We're going out on our bikes! Let's go!"

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold6 years ago

It doesn't matter the sex, our kids need to get outside more. Let them loose and run around they will. They haven't quite got the hang of on line games yet. They are still prime candidates to show how important exercising is. If a day care doesn't have enough people to go outside with the kids, they need to hire enough help.

Stephanie Hungerford

I wish my sister-in-law would let my niece out she doesn't like to let her daughter out because she doesn't want to watch her when she is outside.