Nearly half of preschool children are not taken outside to play on a daily basis, a new study finds.
The Seattle Children's Research Institute study led by Pooja Tandon, MD, MPH, found that nearly half of preschoolers in a sample representing 4 million kids didn’t have even one parent-supervised outdoor play opportunity per day.
The study defined "preschool-age" as those a year away from kindergarten entry, usually 4 or 5 years old.
Dr. Tandon said physical activity through play is essential for preschoolers' growth and development.
"Outdoor play is also beneficial for motor development, vision, cognition, Vitamin D levels and mental health," she added.
Tandon said preschool kids should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day.
The study also found:
- Girls are less likely to play outside compared with boys
- Mothers took their children outside to play more often than fathers
- Fifteen percent of mothers and 30 percent of fathers did not take their child outside to walk or play even a few times per week
- Preschoolers with three or more regular playmates were twice as likely to go outside daily
- Mothers who exercised more than four times per week were 50 percent more likely to take their child outside
- Children with non-white parents are less likely to go outside with them for play
Contrary to popular belief, researchers didn't find evidence that excessive screen time on computers or watching TV was related to less outdoor time.
Dr. Tandon said even if parents are not able to take their children outside to play due to logistics or time constraints, they can advocate for or insist upon it in child care or preschool settings.
"If we can increase awareness of why it's so important for children to be outdoors, there can be a cultural shift and our children will benefit in many ways," she said.
The study, "The frequency of parent-supervised outdoor play of U.S. preschool age children," was published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine