Seattle Research Institute study about outside play

15 Apr

Play is important for children and outside play is particularly important. Kids Discover Nature has some excellent resources about outside play. In the post, 10 Reasons Why Kids Should Play Outside reasons for outside play are given.

1. K-12 students participating in environmental education programs at school do better on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and social studies.

Abrams, K.S. (1999). Summary of project outcomes from Environmental Education and Sunshine State Standards schools’ final report data. Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books. (p. 206) Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books. (p. 206)

2. Children and adults find it easier to concentrate and pay attention after spending time in nature.
Wells, N.M. (2000). At home with nature: Effects of “greenness” on children’s cognitive functioning. Environment and Behavior 32: 775-795.
Hartig, T., Mang, M., & Evans, G.W. (1991). Restorative effects of natural environment experiences. Environment and Behavior 23: 3-26.

3. Nature provides a rich source of hands-on, multi-sensory stimulation, which is critical for brain development in early childhood.
Rivkin, M.S. Natural Learning.

4. Children’s play is more creative and egalitarian in natural areas than in more structured or paved areas.
Faber Taylor, A., Wiley, A., Kuo, F.E. & Sullivan, W.C. (1998). Growing up in the inner city: Green spaces as places to grow. Environment and Behavior 30(1): 3-27.

5. Living in “high nature conditions” buffers children against the effects of stressful life events.
Wells, N. & Evans, G. (2003). Nearby nature: A buffer of life stress among rural children. Environment and Behavior 35: 311-330.
Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books.

6. Views of nature reduce stress levels and speed recovery from illness, injury or stressful experiences.
Frumkin, H. (2001). Beyond toxicity: Human health and the natural environment. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 20(3): 234-240.
Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books.

7. The ultimate raw material for much of human intellect, emotion, personality, industry, and spirit is rooted in a healthy, accessible, and abundant natural environment.
Kellert, Stephen R. (2005). Building for Life: Designing and Developing the Human-Nature Connection.Washington: Island Press.

8. Access to nature nurtures self discipline.
Source: Faber Taylor, A., Kuo, F.E., & Sullivan, W.C. (2002). Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22, 49-63.

9. Nearby Nature Boosts Children’s Cognitive functioning.
Source: Wells, N.M. At Home with Nature: Effects of “Greenness” on Children’s Cognitive Functioning. Environment and Behavior. Vol. 32, No. 6, 775-795.

10. Children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention-deficit disorder (ADD) showed reduce symptoms after playing in natural areas.
Kuo, F.E. & Faber Taylor, A. (2004). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health 94(9):1580-1586.

A study by Seattle Research Institute reinforces these findings.

Here is the Seattle Research Institute press release:

Nearly Half of Preschool Children Not Taken Outside to Play by Parents on a Daily Basis: Study

April 02, 2012

Girls less likely to play outside compared with boys

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatric healthcare providers promote active healthy living by encouraging children to play outside as much as possible.  Being outdoors correlates strongly with physical activity for children, which is important for preventing obesity in the preschool years and on through adulthood.  A new study led by Pooja Tandon, MD, MPH, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute found that nearly half of preschoolers in a sample representing four million U.S. children did not have even one parent-supervised outdoor play opportunity per day.  The study, “The frequency of parent-supervised outdoor play of U.S. preschool age children,” was published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

Preschool age children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day,” said Dr. Tandon. “But many preschoolers are not meeting that recommendation. Young children need more opportunities to play outdoors and to help them be more active.”

Preschool age children as defined by the study are those a year away from kindergarten entry, usually four or five years old.  Parents or guardians have the greatest influence on children’s behavior because kids spend the majority of time in their care. This is true even for children in child care, as preschoolers in the U.S. spend an average of 32 hours per week in child care.

Contrary to popular belief, researchers did not find evidence that excessive screen time on computers or watching television was related to less outdoor time.

Moms take kids outside more often 

Girls are less likely to play outside compared with boys, according to the study. And mothers took their children outside to play more often than fathers.  Forty-four percent of moms said they took their kids outside daily, compared to 24 percent of dads.  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.

Physical activity through play is essential for preschoolers’ growth and development,” said Dr. Tandon, who is also acting assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.  “Outdoor play is also beneficial for motor development, vision, cognition, Vitamin D levels and mental health,” she added.

Racial, ethnic disparities exist 

The study also found that children with non-white parents are less likely to go outside with them for play.  Asian mothers were 49 percent less likely, black mothers 41 percent less likely and Hispanic mothers 20 percent less likely to take their child outside, compared with white mothers. 

Racial and ethnic disparities in rates of children who are overweight or obese start early on in life,” said Dr. Tandon.  “Children in a low socioeconomic status may have fewer opportunities to be active and play outside.”

Playmates, parents who exercise 

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 daily than mothers who did not report any exercise. 

The study findings highlight considerable room for improvement in parent-supervised outdoor play opportunities for preschool age children.  “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,” said Dr. Tandon.  “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.”

Dr. Tandon Offers Tips for Parents to Increase Outdoor Physical Activity for Kids 

  • If your child is in day care or cared for by others, ask about outdoor play time
  • Increase awareness among friends of why it’s important for children to play outdoors
  • Encourage and support girls in outdoor active play
  • Don’t let darkness or weather deter you from getting outside with your kids: Take a “flashlight walk” or a rainy day hike; invite your friends

Dr. Tandon shares these tips, and more, in a video: 

Researchers analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth Cohort, using a sample size of 8,950 representing approximately four million U.S. children.  The research was supported by the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development Mentored Scholars Program at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. 

Dr. Tandon’s co-authors were:  Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, University of Washington; and Chuan Zhou, PhD, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, University of Washington.

Supporting Materials: 

See, Preschoolers miss out on outdoor play

Children need to explore their environment.

John Tierney has an interesting New York Times article, Findings: Can A Playground Be Too Safe?

When seesaws and tall slides and other perils were disappearing from New York’s playgrounds, Henry Stern drew a line in the sandbox. As the city’s parks commissioner in the 1990s, he issued an edict concerning the 10-foot-high jungle gym near his childhood home in northern Manhattan.

I grew up on the monkey bars in Fort Tryon Park, and I never forgot how good it felt to get to the top of them,” Mr. Stern said. “I didn’t want to see that playground bowdlerized. I said that as long as I was parks commissioner, those monkey bars were going to stay.”

His philosophy seemed reactionary at the time, but today it’s shared by some researchers who question the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.

Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”

Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.
Mark Twain


Children need time to play and just be children                 

The state of preschool education is dire                                            

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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