Kids (and parents) need at least an hour a day of physical activity – ideally spent playing outside – to stay healthy. But nearly half of parents of preschoolers don’t take their children outdoors daily, a study out this week found.
Even preschoolers in child care spend the majority of their time with their parents, so moms and dads are the biggest influences over their healthy behavior. Researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute found that computer and television time weren’t a factor in whether kids made it outdoors, but they did note several other traits that made a difference. Preschoolers had outdoor play with parents more often if:
They were boys. The study found that girls were less likely to play outside, and that mothers took their children outside more often (44%) than fathers (24%).
They had playmates. Preschoolers with three or more regular playmates were twice as likely to get outside every day as those with fewer playtime pals.
Their parents were white. Asian moms were 49 percent less likely, black mothers 41 percent less likely and Hispanic moms 20 percent less likely to take their children outside than white mothers were.
Their mothers exercised. Mothers who reported exercising more than four times a week were 50 percent more likely to take their kids outside daily than mothers who said they didn’t exercise at all.
The 8,950 families in the survey were part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (collected from 2001 to kindergarten entry), and represent approximately 4 million U.S. children. The current study appears in the April 2 Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.
Lead author Pooja Tandon, M.D., MPH, says that parents should ask childcare centers about outdoor playtime, talk up the importance of outdoor play to friends, and make an extra effort to encourage girls to play outdoors. Even if you don’t get home until after dark, or it’s a bit rainy, a flashlight and umbrella are all you need to turn a walk around the block into an outdoor adventure.