In the bustle of modern family life, traditions can fall by the wayside – family dinners, strict bedtimes, even discipline. Now researchers have identified another casualty: playing outside as a family.
About half of preschoolers aren’t getting fresh air with a parent daily, an activity that experts say could help prevent childhood obesity.
A new study in the United States of 9,000 children born in 2001 and their parents “found that fewer than half of mothers and only a quarter of fathers reported taking their child for a walk or playing with them in the yard or park at least once a day,” reports Reuters.
And the situation is worse for little girls and non-white children, who were less likely to go outside with a parent.
Current U.S. guidelines from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education suggest that children get at least an hour of physical activity and that preschoolers should get a few hours of unstructured playtime each day.
These guidelines are similar to recent physical activity recommendations from the Canadian Paediatric Society.
While researchers understand that getting to the park can be a challenge for parents who work outside the home, Pooja Tandon, a pediatrician at the University of Washington in Seattle who worked on the study, told Reuters that kids aren’t necessarily getting outside time in childcare or preschool.
Another factor: Children with a few regular playmates were more likely to get daily time outside. Researchers surmised that, in this case, parents might be taking turns taking a few children to the park at a time, which is a “a good strategy for time-pressed parents,” reports Reuters.
Over at the New York Times, writer KJ Dell'Antonia zeroed in on the fact that parents of little boys were 16 per cent more likely to say they took them outside daily, possibly because boys “may be perceived by parents as more in need of vigorous activity, more athletically inclined or even more willing to get dirty.
“Those aren’t conclusions most of us want to be consciously coming to about our daughters, but (as when we fail to talk to our daughters about math) some stereotypes are tucked so deeply into our minds that we act on them without even knowing they’re there.”
Parents, how often do you get outside to play with the kids? And are you more inclined to get out there with Jasper than you are with Madeleine?