January 4th, 2012
07:22 AM ET

Playtime for preschoolers essential, study says

Preschoolers in child care centers aren't spending enough time playing outdoors and just being kids, according to a new study published in this week's Pediatrics journal.

Three quarters of American children ages 3 to 5 are in child care and, like most kids, they need to be more physically active, say researchers. But children who aren't in day care may also lack enough active time outside.

"Daily physical activity is essential for preschool age children both for preventing obesity and for their development - their physical development and their cognitive development," says study author Dr. Kristen Copeland from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.

Dr. Copeland and her team of researchers wanted to find out why children weren't more active so they talked to the staff at 34 child care facilities in Cincinnati. They discovered that centers often emphasized classroom learning at the expense of outdoor playtime. Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics say this is not limited to Cincinnati, but occurs in many parts of the country as well.

"We were somewhat surprised to find this in this young age group," says Copeland. "But teachers told us that parents - both upper income and lower income parents - seemed to be more concerned about what their children were learning than about whether they went outside and mastered fundamental gross motor skills."

When kids are running, skipping and learning to ride tricycles, they aren't only exercising their bodies, they're also exercising their minds, which is why playtime is so important, experts say.

"If you're [a child] taking turns and you're playing 'Duck, Duck, Goose,' and you're running outside playing 'Hide and Seek' and counting to 10, you're got a lot of cognitive skills added in there," says Dr. Laura Jana. "They are applying what they learned in a book; they are projecting out and figuring out or making up rules. All of these things are cognitive skills."

Jana is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and member of the AAP's executive committee for early education in child care.

Researchers found concerns about playground safety by staff and parents contributed to more sedentary activities in youngsters. Some parents even requested that their child stay indoors instead of heading outside to play. Another contributing factor to kids getting less playtime are state safety guidelines for play structures, which have gotten stricter over time, rendering some of the equipment less challenging or interesting for children.

Children tended to either use the equipment less or climb on it in ways that were not intended, like up the sides of support poles. Budgetary constraints also kept some centers from purchasing updated playground equipment or providing adequate spaces for children to run and play.

How much playtime do children need? Pediatric experts recommend that preschoolers get 90 to 120 minutes of gross motor activity daily, and be taken outdoors twice a day. But Copeland found that children spent only 2 to 3% of their time engrossed in vigorous play during an 8 hour day in child care.

According to the CDC, 17% of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese, so intervening early with more physical activity is important.

Copeland suggests that parents get involved and help shape child care practices about physical activity. First, start by dressing children appropriately. Close-toed shoes on warm days and coats and mittens in cold weather are essential for safe outdoor play. And that old wives tale about catching a cold in frigid weather, it's just not true, so let your child participate. Also, when you look for a child care center, go explore the playground and ask the staff if children have a place to play during inclement weather.

Classroom learning such as mastering shapes, colors and letters is important for school readiness, but exploring outdoors and just plain being a kid is vital as well.

Jana explains: "Safety is important, supervision is important and academics too, but play should be elevated to the same level as early literacy.... play gets left off that list, it's almost too simple."

What you learn in preschool and kindergarten can help shape your success later in life, says Copeland.

soundoff (1,293 Responses)
  1. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    Wonderful article! We are linking to this great post on our website. Keep up the good writing.


    June 29, 2021 at 03:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Repair Near My Location

    Hello there, There's no doubt that your site could possibly be having internet browser compatibility problems. When I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, wonderful site!


    June 29, 2021 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sprinter Van Hard To Repair Van

    I want to to thank you for this very good read!! I certainly loved every bit of it. I have got you saved as a favorite to look at new things you postÖ


    June 29, 2021 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Rv Maintenance Shop Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Repair Orange County


    June 29, 2021 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and also the rest of the website is really good.


    June 29, 2021 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 29, 2021 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Passenger Van Repair Shop Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. www.pharmaceptica.com

    erectile male dysfunction https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 29, 2021 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Repair Nearby


    June 29, 2021 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. pharmaceptica

    cholorquine https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 29, 2021 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sprinter Repair Near Me

    Aw, this was a very nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to produce a great articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a lot and never manage to get anything done.


    June 29, 2021 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mercedes Sprinter Refrigerater Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Camper Repair Places Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Best Tucker Sprinter Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repair Nearby

    Having read this I believed it was really enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this short article together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    June 29, 2021 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Keystone Sprinter Tank Repair Leaking


    June 30, 2021 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Credit Counseling orlando

    this is very informative and intersting for those who are interested in blogging field.


    June 30, 2021 at 05:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sprinter Repair Orange County


    June 30, 2021 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Locksmith Cave Creek

    Impressive! Thanks for the post


    June 30, 2021 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Auto Insurance Englewood CO

    carry on, dont stop


    June 30, 2021 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. hvac reapir near me

    Commenting on a blog is an art. Good comments create relations. You're doing great work. Keep it up.


    June 30, 2021 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jonelle Rosboril

    So you do not really have to worry about what is the best kids table when you have these accessories with it. You just have to look for the ones that will match the design of your kid's room. With these simple tips, I am sure that you will definitely find the best kids table for your child.


    June 30, 2021 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Fayetteville NC Heater Repair

    I really like this post


    June 30, 2021 at 07:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Repair Shops Nearby


    June 30, 2021 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Kitsap Daily News

    Thanks-a-mundo for the blog article.Really thank you! Much obliged.


    June 30, 2021 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. auto body shop raleigh

    This is a very interesting article. Please, share more like this!


    June 30, 2021 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Relentless Collision

    This is a very interesting article. Please, share more like this!


    June 30, 2021 at 08:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. estate planning Spokane Valley

    such a great information for blogger i am a professional blogger thanks


    June 30, 2021 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repair Shops Nearby


    June 30, 2021 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Body Damage Shop Near Me

    I'm more than happy to find this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and I have you book marked to look at new stuff on your website.


    June 30, 2021 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    There's certainly a great deal to know about this issue. I really like all of the points you have made.


    June 30, 2021 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.