Why Are Parents Less Likely to Take Little Girls Outside to Play?

Everyone knows the sex stereotypes: boys like to play sports; girls like to play house. These beliefs are so entrenched that even parents have bought in: new research shows that preschool girls are 16% less likely than boys their age to be taken outside by their parents to play.

Nearly half of preschoolers don’t venture outside with their parents to play every day, and girls are most likely to suffer, according to a new study of 8,950 U.S. kids in their final year before entering grade school.

(MORE: Why More Preschoolers Are Going Under the Dentist’s Drill)

Is the discrepancy a result of societal norms? Do boys demand to be taken outside more? Are girls just assumed to be less athletic and less inclined to run around outdoors?

It’s likely a combination of all three, says lead author Pooja Tandon, a pediatrician and researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which is affiliated with the University of Washington. “Children need outdoor time every day, and they need more outdoor play opportunities than they’re getting,” says Tandon.

According to the study, which was published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine:

Previous research has shown there is a sex disparity in physical activity levels, with boys being more active than girls from a young age and substantial declines in girls’ physical activity as they get older.

One philosopher argued that “gendered standards of cleanliness” and play leave girls less exposed to microorganisms commonly found in…
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