A recent study revealed that the three-fourths of U.S. children who currently attend child care centers are largely sedentary, engaging in vigorous activity for a mere 2-3% of their day. The research, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has been garnering a lot of attention for its alarming findings. According to the study’s lead author, Kristen A. Copeland, M.D., a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, “We know children learn through play, including vigorous play.” That play, however is increasingly squeezed out of young children’s days for the following reasons:
- Concerns about injury
- Financial limitations
- A focus on “academics” at the expense of gross-motor play
“These kids finish preschool and don’t know how to skip, and that doesn’t upset their parents as long as they know their ABCs and can count to 10.”
By the time children are school-aged, 19% are already obese and have established sedentary habits.
Fortunately, this and other important research has caught the attention of the mainstream press. USA Today and the Wall Street Journal have recently covered the importance of movement and play for young children. In the U.K., the non-profit Play England is calling for support to help children play outside — Researchers in England revealed that 21% of British children currently play outdoors every day, compared to 71% of their parents when they were children.
There is much more research about the positive benefits of children’s play in nature.
C&NN recently updated two popular publications, Children’s Contact with the Outdoors and Nature: A Focus on Educators and Educational Settings, and Health Benefits to Children from Contact with the Outdoors & Nature. Each includes summaries of research that C&NN has reviewed for quality, from C&NN’s Volumes 1-5 of Annotated Bibliographies of Research. Volume 5 includes 88 new studies, bringing the total in these five volumes to more than 200.
With this issue gaining greater visibility in the press, child care centers, educators, parents, health care professionals, public policy makers, and others are taking note of the mounting research about the importance of children’s physical and outdoor play. A growing network of concerned individuals, organizations and agencies is working hard to ensure that future generations of children will use their bodies playfully and naturally, in natural settings when possible, and experience the supreme joy of skipping.