Take me out to the Playground!

Preschoolers need to be taken outside to play with parent supervision at least once daily

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Breakfast? Check. Storytime? Check. Naptime? Check. Lunch? Check. Playing with dolls and trucks? Check. Shapes and colors and puzzles? Check. Plenty of time playing outside? Oops.

Almost a half of all preschoolers aren't getting enough outside play time, according to a nationally representative survey just published.

"Take your preschooler outside to play once a day."

Pooja Tandon, MD, led a study with colleagues from the Seattle Children's Research Institute and the University of Washington to look at the data of 8,950 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort and determine how much outside playtime preschoolers are getting based on parents' self-reports.

They found that 42 percent of the children who spent the day with their parents - as opposed to a daycare or childcare provider - did not go outside to play at least once daily.

Outside play has already been linked in previous research to better development in motor skills, vision and critical thinking skills, as well as improved mental health outcomes and healthier vitamin D levels.

Overall, 51 percent of children were taken out for a walk or to play at least once a day by a parent. And 58 percent of children who did not attend a child care center went outside at least once a day.

The researchers found that children were more likely to be taken outside to play if they were boys, if they had more regular friends to play with and if their parents reported exercising more often.

The researchers did not see any patterns that connected the amount of outside play reported by parents with how often the child watched television, the mother's marital status, household income or parents' sense of how safe their neighborhood was.

They did, however, find links between a mother's race or ethnicity and how often the child went outside to play. Asian mothers were 49 percent less likely to take their children outside to play compared to white mothers, and black mothers were 41 percent less likely.

Hispanic mothers were 20 percent less likely to take their children outside daily compared to white mothers.

The researchers concluded that more efforts should be made to ensure girls and nonwhite children are getting more outdoor play time.

The study appeared online April 2 in the JAMA publication Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The research was funded by the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development Mentored Scholars Program at Seattle Children's Research Institute. The authors reported no financial conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 3, 2012
Last Updated:
April 4, 2012