Nearly half of pre-schoolers not playing outside
April 2nd, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Nearly half of pre-schoolers not playing outside

The early childhood years are crucial for learning and development. That should involve a great deal of outdoor physical activity and playtime, but that's not always the case.

Nearly half of 3 to 5 year olds are not taken outdoors by a parent or caregiver every day, according to research presented in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine this week.

"There's a big room for improvement in how parents prioritize their time and what they're doing in the time they're spending with their pre-school children," said lead study author Dr. Pooja Tandon of Seattle Children's Research Institute.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children play outside as much as possible, for at least 60 minutes a day. Physical activity is not only good for weight control and preventing childhood obesity; previous research also suggests playing outside improves motor development, vision and vitamin D levels.

"There is evidence that play - just sort of the act of playing - is important for children's development of their social skills and their peer interactions," Tandon said.  "Being outdoors affords children an opportunity to play in ways that they may not get to when they're indoors."

In the study, researchers studied almost 9,000 pre-schoolers nationwide and asked their parents how often they take their children outside to play.

Mothers took their children out to play more often than fathers did. Working outside of the home was often a barrier for children to play outdoors, but some parents who worked from home also did not take their kids out.

In addition, the researchers found that mothers who exercised often were more likely to take their kids outdoors, as opposed to those who did not report any exercise.

The study authors also noted that girls had fewer opportunities for outdoor recreation than boys did. A study released in January came to similar conclusions.

"As caregivers or parents of girls, [we should] rethink how we dress our girls, and what we encourage them to do as far as play so that they have the same opportunity for outdoor play as boys do," Tandon said.

For all parents, Tandon offers a couple of suggestions.

First, check in with your child's care provider or child care center to ensure there is adequate outdoor time. Make sure that your child is getting it; if not, advocate for it. By pre-school age, 80% of the children in the study were in child care; in the U.S., pre-schoolers spend an average of 32 hours per week in child care.

Second, Tandon suggests coming up with new and creative ways to work around barriers, perhaps through social and community networks.

"I think parents want to do what's best for their children and I hope that this study serves as a reminder that playing outside with your children is also an important part of what we do as parents," Tandon added.

soundoff (581 Responses)
  1. Makenna

    What a sad article! I know in some instances parents don't have much control over daycare situations due to financial reasons and others, but a good majority do. Get your kids out from in front of the TV and let them get some good old Vitamin "D"irt. My boys spend hours outside every day (weather permitting) and love it. I love watching their imaginations grow and seeing the games they create on their own.

    April 2, 2012 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • avid reader

      you are so right. Children of all ages need to get outside and have fun. We complain about children being too heavy and yet so many of them only exercise their thumbs with video games or text messages. Whatever happened to just using their imaginations and having fun with the kids in the neighborhood instead of parents structuring their lives?

      April 2, 2012 at 17:03 | Report abuse |
    • freelance7

      Preschoolers?! Don't stop there. Kids in general don't play outside enough. Our parents sometimes had to tell us to go outside. Like avid reader said, today "play" is a video game or texting. God forbid they get out in the real world and develop their minds and bodies.

      April 3, 2012 at 01:23 | Report abuse |
    • jesusnagstring

      Think about it. Remember how kids of all ages use to play outside? How often do you see that now? They are either in front if a computer or video game or they are texting or watching tv. Which would explain the increased obesity in children as well as other health problems. Want to know why kidd weren't as hyper in years past? Because they burned all that energy off outside playing. My nephew asked me if I we had parkour when I was young? You know running, jumping, and climbing? I said yeah but we just called it playing. Now kids would rather play Madden football instead of actual football
      Or sit in front of a webcam where you can heat sound coming from both cams but instead of actually verbally talking they instead type messages? Really? But that's from lack of parenting. Tell your kids to go outside and do something physical or hey maybe a banana and apple juice might be better than hot pocket and a snickers. Encourage your kids to go outside and play and actually interact with other kida so they end up with some social skills in life. But instead most would rather some device or some pill raise their kids because they don't want to be bothered or because they would rather be the kids beat friend instead of a parent that says no, sets rules and guidelines and punishes bad behavior. Just tell your kids to go outside and play once in awhile...

      April 3, 2012 at 02:04 | Report abuse |
    • HAWAII

      Makenna, I sounds like you actually WANT your children. Really, from Every walk of life, they seem like an accessory, an after thought to many. Mandatory parenting classes, baby follow up visits to HELP parents, (monitor real trouble too) would be deemed invasive -but no problem Imposing Society w/ the Bill for the bad parenting though.
      Maybe a cash reward for IQ points, wellness at each milestone? lol...."You read to them at night, and no TV 24/7? They are smart, no need for SPED? Here's $5,000"......"You fed them Pepsi for breakfast every day, kept them glued to the Id iot Box?...You will cost US dearly, no $$ for you..."

      April 3, 2012 at 02:44 | Report abuse |
    • sunlight99

      This reminds me of the story about why don't people go to national parks like they used to for hiking in the woods. The list goes on its the TV, Computer games, blah, blah blah..... Its the sick psychopaths that you hear about on the news and TV all the time.

      How many kids go missing because of predators? How many people go missing or are found killed who go hiking in the woods. I am personally not sure of the exact numbers but you see it played on TV all the time.

      I am going to come off sounding like an old lady here but whatever...

      When my mother was a kid she said she was out playing all the time and no one worried... houses were not locked and everyone felt safe. When I was a kid we had to be home by dark and check in once in a while during the day. When my niece was little she could play in the fenced in yard where we would check on her periodically.

      It seems the world today everyone has a throw away mentality. I call it the Walmart effect. You get what you want when you want it and then toss when you are done. It seems that people also fit into this category when you look at the number of people just taken used and murdered (just google and see how much pops up).

      So CNN can yap all it wants about the evils of modern technology and TV, video games, and etc making kids fat. However, if it were safe (or at least felt safer) to let kids out doors by themselves or even with an adult that did not have to practically keep them on a teather kids would be out like they used to be playing and having a great time.

      Even for adults, I go out and jog but I watch where I go and how long I stay out. I would not even think of going up to the cascades by myself and just spending the day out in the woods hiking around. Yes, I would like to but when I do go we go in a larger group. Instead of complaining about the TV and etc we need to work on fixing the bigger problem so kids can have the freedoms of children in the past.

      April 3, 2012 at 05:54 | Report abuse |
    • CWH

      sunlight99, crime rates are down significantly today from where they were when we were kids. Abductions are extremely rare – statistically speaking, kids are more likely to get hit by lightening, or die in a house fire, than they are to be abducted. It doesn't seem that way, since TV is rife with shows like CSI, Dexter, and overly sensationalized news, but it's actually much safer to let kids play outdoors on their own these days. And it's good for them – it teaches them independence and self reliance.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
    • kdf

      I love the fact that your kids have an imagination... I was babysitting for someone once who had three girls... all they ever wanted to do was sit in front of the TV or be on the computer. I told them every day to go outside and play. One day I got the response back " but there is nothing fun to do outside " so I told them to use their imagination. Mind you these girls were 6, 8 and 12... the answer I got back... "what is an imagination". And they were being very serious too... sad, just sad.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:17 | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      dirt is dirty and has insect and animal do do in it! u r a sick person! children should be in plastic bubbles until they graduate high school, then u kick them out of the house without health insurance or birth control etc....

      April 3, 2012 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
  2. Stephen in Austin, TX

    Research that shows 14 hours of outside play a week will prevent myopia (nearsightedness). 2 hours a day is tough to manage once they hit school but it is critical to reducing the glasses epidemic.

    April 2, 2012 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CJ

      Proof please? I played outside a lot as a child and I'm incredibly nearsighted, as is my mother. We both developed our nearsightedness at approximately the same age (4th grade). I have trouble believing that factor alone can magically negate this "epidemic" of nearsightedness you speak of.

      April 2, 2012 at 18:21 | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous Coward

      I grew up in the days before video games. We had a TV, but rarely turned it on. And back then, kids didn't have hours upon hours of homework. So I was outside from the minute I got home until my mother called me for dinner, and then again after dinner until bedtime. And I was identified as nearsighted in first or second grade - I couldn't see distant things like, oh, the blackboard. Anecdotal evidence for the win!

      April 3, 2012 at 00:32 | Report abuse |
    • Mungo32

      There is some evidence that 'near-work' increases the risk and magnitude of myopic progression. But there is still not a strong consensus among people who study this as to whether or not there is a direct link between the two, nor has a model for myopia been developed at the molecular level. Regardless, 'near-work' includes not only screen time, but also reading (for example, rates of myopia are directly correlated with literacy rate). And I don't see anyone arguing for less reading time. All that said, I'm still an advocate for outside play... myopia is just something we have to deal with because of our lifestyle.

      April 3, 2012 at 01:12 | Report abuse |
    • sandy

      You meant to answer this on April Fool's Day, right? Seriously, playing outside has nothing whatsoever to do with myopia. Pick your parents well if you want to stop the glasses epidemic!

      April 3, 2012 at 02:37 | Report abuse |
    • Taysha

      myopia is a genetic disorder. I probably spent 3hrs+ outside every day as a child (and 6 on weekends, comfortably) and I was diagnosed with it at 17. So did my mother, father and two sisters.

      So...yeah. Genetics.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:00 | Report abuse |
    • T

      Yeah, that is a pretty ridiculous comment. I played outside constantly as a kid and continued to spend a lot of time outdoors as a teen and adult and I am very nearsighted. Would love to see that research!

      April 3, 2012 at 10:07 | Report abuse |
    • Jim in Frankfort, IL

      Myopia ... maybe ... obesity definitely. It can't hurt, just get them outside.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:08 | Report abuse |
    • WarhammerTwo

      Hey Coward,

      You ain't kidding about that homework! My older son is in first grade, and even though he doesn't have a ton of homework, it takes a loooooooooooong time to get through. Why? Because he's 7. That's why. His 7 year old mind doesn't want to be sitting at a table for hours on end glued to worksheets and books – especially after coming home from school where he's just endured hours of instruction, several times greater than I had to deal with when I was his age. He wants to be playing. And his 7 year old mind isn't mature enough to understand the concept of "focus, get it done quickly, then play." It's just thinking, "Play, play, play, play, play." Girls, I've noticed have much better control in this area. Little boys? Not so much. Just because other countries treat their kids like little machines doesn't mean we have to as well. They're kids. And kids need play.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
    • kdf

      um, that is a genetic disorder... ONLY

      April 3, 2012 at 10:27 | Report abuse |
    • Jane Kingston

      When I was a kid, my eye doctor actually told myself and my parents that the reason I needed glasses and that I was so near sighted was because I read too much. That every 1/2 hour I needed to put down the book and make my eyes focus on something in the distance, so that I could train the eye. Turns out my grandmother has the same eye problems that I do, so really not sure if what he was saying holds any water, or was just the common fad belief at the time. I mean the stereotype was that the bookworms all wore glasses.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:29 | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      fyi your face into a monitor isnt good for the eyes

      April 3, 2012 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
  3. Laur

    I'm not surprised because I notice in our neighborhood, a lot of the kids aren't out playing. I have two boys 3 and 4 and they love the outdoors. I love it too. We are out all the time. Yesterday cold hands is what brought them in. Today it was supper. They would never choose indoors over outdoors. They hate coming in for lunch so sometimes we all eat outside unless it is really hot or really cold.

    April 2, 2012 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LHS

      @Laur – I totally agree! I've noticed the same thing in my neighborhood. It's just not how it used to be years ago. I remember when I was younger, we would be outside for hours (i.e., get up, eat breakfast, go outside, come back for lunch, go back outside, come in when the street lights came on). Granted, times are different nowadays meaning you may not want your children venturing off, but (today's) kids barely go outside at all. It's truly sad because my kids also love the outdoors, and all the kids on my block that are their age are never outside.

      April 2, 2012 at 18:33 | Report abuse |
    • Jim in Frankfort, IL

      Yep, my kids love it too! ...and it very rare that kids don't want to go out because of the weather ... that is generally a parent inflicted condition (too cold, too wet, too muddy etc.) ... my kids will go out in any weather (except lightning) and they love. Pouring down rain and they'll throw on their boots and rain coat and splash in puddles (not that their boots or raincoat end up keeping them dry). ...windchill of 5F ... they don't care, we just come in and get hot chocolate regularly.

      It's not always easy, sometimes I have to pry myself away from work, or work long after they are in bed ... but I've never regretted putting things down and going out there with them. There are only so many years they'll be interested in playing outside ... I might as well take advantage of them.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
  4. Natalie

    Nowadays we book our kids in so many after school activities they don't even have time to have a nice meal sitting down and have to stay late to finish their home works. Very sad, I have a feeling that kids don't even know how to play with each-other anymore without having their parents guiding them and keeping them inside the cookie cut we created for them.
    We are creating a future generation on wirdos and unhealthy people.

    April 2, 2012 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • drew

      weirdos and unhealthy people? have you ever taken a college history course? too late for that. Benjamin Franklin lived to his 80s and was obviously very successful, he believed in the power of organized meetings and clubs. But really you have to start with morals anyway, if you don't have any then your kids probably won't amount to much either, and the reverse of that, if you teach your kids some good morals hopefully things turn out productively.

      April 3, 2012 at 02:20 | Report abuse |
    • pat

      We are the opposite. My kids are busy with chores around the house and we make it a point to sit down as a family every meal. So we don't have time for many extra activities.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
  5. Rose

    Read "Last Child in the Woods" if you want to know about Nature Deficit Disorder. I predict that the DSM will have it as an official diagnosis within a few years.

    April 2, 2012 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Valentijn

    Kids aren't getting any vitamin D from being outside most of the year. Unless they're eating something out there that you really don't want to know about.

    April 2, 2012 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tall One


      Your body synthesizes vitamin d from exposure to sunlight. Technically you are right they aren't getting it, but their bodies are making it.

      April 3, 2012 at 00:02 | Report abuse |
    • Valentijn

      Only UVB stimulates the formation of vitamin D. And UVB doesn't reach most places during the winter (or fall and spring, if far enough north).

      April 3, 2012 at 03:43 | Report abuse |
  7. Anonymous Coward

    A few years ago, I (along with most of the neighborhood) was outside watching the apartment building down the block burn down. Standing near me was a couple with their two sons, about five and six or thereabouts. The kids seemed a bit dislocated, and their mother explained "Being outside is a special treat for them. We don't let them outside because there are so many ethnic people in the neighborhood." (seriously, "ethnic"?) Incidentally, the neighborhood in question was one in which I never felt unsafe, even walking around alone in the wee hours of morning, and I've lived in some *bad* neighborhoods (once on a street two blocks long that had three crack houses). Parental fear for the lose.

    April 3, 2012 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Guy

    Grandparents can and should play a significant role in accomplishing this goal. No daycare for for our grandson; only "active learning" experiences with plenty of outdoor exercise and play. The statement "It takes a village to raise child" could not be more true.

    April 3, 2012 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      Don't entirely downplay the importance of preschool. Its great in forming good behavior in children while in social settings away from their parents. Not to say that other children are wild and unruley, just that preschool helps a lot.

      April 3, 2012 at 01:16 | Report abuse |
    • ItIsSo

      Yes, don't group all preschools/care facilities together. Our preschool is extremely active in outdoor activities. The kids are outside everyday. Rain, snow, sun, wind... they go outside. They are out for walks in the forest and explore the school's surrounding area. Every school is different. Before choosing a school, make sure that they cater to the body and nature of your child. It's one of the most important decisions you'll ever make.

      With regards to parents neglecting to exercise and tire out the kiddies: Vancouver has very diverse weather (ranging from very hot to not so nice), and most parents aren't afraid to get out there and get muddy in order for their kids to learn and expend some energy.

      April 3, 2012 at 02:07 | Report abuse |
    • sammy

      I hate to say it but some of the brattiest kids are the ones with their grandparents watching them, unfortunately grandparents often are a bit out of touch with what mischief the kids are getting into

      April 3, 2012 at 02:12 | Report abuse |
  9. Bob Hope's Ghost

    well gee, cause CNN is always running articles about the dangers of sexual predators everywhere, bird flu, swine flu, super asian bees and all the other dangerous stuff, it's safer just to keep the kids inside.

    April 3, 2012 at 00:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • guest

      cnn should run the articles on Registered Sex Offenders, and more people should look at their local lists if they can. Look at in Zip Code Map View mode and you'll be disturbed how many dots are on the map all around you. Show your older kids too.

      April 3, 2012 at 02:09 | Report abuse |
  10. Guy

    The cities in California need to take down the eight foot high security fences with locked gates that surround the baseball fields. A a child we used to leave hone at 8am and return for dinner with most of that time consumed playing "unorganized" sports with friends. Kids need to get off the video games and actually play outside.

    April 3, 2012 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • anon

      I agree, our city (in California) just spent a whole ton of money on a beautiful sports complex with 3 baseball fields and football field... and no one can use it but leagues with a key to the fences. It sits empty 90% of the time and its literally across the street from us and it kills me the kids can't use it to play.

      April 3, 2012 at 01:29 | Report abuse |
    • lee

      problem is lack of adult supervision/energy to be out with the kids in a land full of Registered Sex Offenders in every block in America.

      April 3, 2012 at 02:07 | Report abuse |
  11. MikeyZ

    Something is very wrong either with the phrasing of the article or the study itself.

    My daughter is in pre-school. She gets no less than two hours of outdoor time every day, just from the schedule provided by the school. I know of no pre-school that fails to do this, save periods of inclement weather. My wife and I supplement this with additional hours in the week, but that's not the point. Why are they asking the parents to the exclusion of school administrators?

    What percentage of 3-5 year-olds actually go to pre-school?

    It may be that half of pre-school-*aged* children are not getting out enough. But I think if you separate pre-shool-aged kids by whether or not they are actually in pre-school, you will see two decidedly different stories.

    April 3, 2012 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. kc_ca

    Sadly, many times parents PICK daycares and preschool that don't offer much outdoor playtime. Parents are so focused on academics, on having a 4 year old who can read, they forget or don't care that free play is actually the best teacher for young kids. These are the years when children are pure scientists. They experiment, test, try – and learn. Every minute they are "playing".

    April 3, 2012 at 01:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Person

    One of the problems is that no one lives in houses anymore. Few people can afford them, and more and more families end up cramped in apartments. Almost everyone I know lives in apartments, and the days of yards and driveways seem a thing long past.

    April 3, 2012 at 01:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • findinggroundfamily

      You're right, person.

      We live in an apartment four floors up, no elevator, no green space, no child-friendly areas. While I do my best to get my almost-three-year-old out, I would be lying if I said that dragging her and all the stuff that comes with playing outside in the city (stroller, diaper bag, lunch bag, toys etc) up and down those four flights of stairs didn't impede my desire. I can't just open the back door and let her play while I cook dinner. I can't even let her walk on her own until we get far enough away from the busiest streets because she's two, and will run in a split second. Our towns and cities are not child friendly. We'd love to leave this apartment and buy a house but we're just an average middle-income family and house ownership–where there's work to be had–is far from our reach. I never thought we'd raise a family in an apartment, but unless something drastic happens, this is how it will be. A lot of families are doing this now. And so, the children don't get to play outside as often as we'd all like. It'll remain this way until we start to engineer our neighborhoods, towns and cities to reflect our priorities.

      April 3, 2012 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      I would argue that urban living actually encourages people to go outside. I grew up in Chicago (actually in the city, not the burbs) and because we lived in a 1BR apartment, it sorta forced us to go out to the parks and playgrounds. I remember my mom taking my sister and I to different playgrounds. When you have a house in the burbs, there aren't as many parks within a walkable distance, so people may be more inclined to stay inside.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:00 | Report abuse |
  14. John

    I'd say the problem nowdays, at least for older kids, is that schools are slowly getting rid of recess time. I can't think of a single day that I wanted to stay inside until I hit fourth grade, which happened to be the cutoff grade for recess in my school system. After that I slowly started shifting to video games and indoor entertainment for when I got home after school or sports. Heck, bring back recess or some sort of free time outdoors for students and we might even end the obesity epidemic as well.

    April 3, 2012 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RandomOne

      Agreed, but even when I was in high school I wished we had a recess to go outside, get fresh air, and clear our heads from stress. I'm sure teachers would have appreciated it too. Gym classes are disappearing from schools as well, which is too bad. Although many students hated gym class, at least it got everyone outside on nice days and at least you were getting a little bit of exercise.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:26 | Report abuse |
  15. lynn

    This is sad. No wonder we have so many over weight children and adults in the U.S. and I am sorry to tell some of you Parents, but there are Daycares out there that sit kids in front of video games and cartoons so they don't have to deal with your children.

    April 3, 2012 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. bill

    I'm sick of the word "tot". When I hear the word I see Nancy Grace in a 24/7 grimace and cutting people off mid sentence when she does not agree. No wonder the caption writer here used it.
    When you have a country where plants are considered evil only by a single government agency, why would neglect of kids well being be a surprise? Plants like sun so why would you expect kids to be allowed in it? Parents should be raising the kids not a "third party" anyway. I was raised by the third party so I know. To break the cycle I refuse to have kids.

    April 3, 2012 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hannah1

      Good for you! I wish everyone had no kids, then there would be some peace and quiet when we taxpaying adults go outdoors to garden, read or just relax. I vote for keeping ALL the beasties indoors all the time!

      April 3, 2012 at 07:26 | Report abuse |
  17. ishiibrad

    I`m waiting for the day when they come out with a video game " Cleaning my room ","playing outside" or "taking a bath"

    April 3, 2012 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. manaman

    almost every home made in the last 10 years has no yard to play in, and public park areas are becoming almost non-existent in urban and sub-urban areas. the problem isn't (just) video games.

    April 3, 2012 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anon

      My home was built 4 years ago and has a great yard, front and back. We are also 2 walking blocks from a lake with a park and picnic areas (and yes, we use the yards and lake areas.)

      April 3, 2012 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
  19. terry

    a lot of communities aren't even walkable or safe to ride bikes for kids. there's no room, if a kid tips over they can easily scratch a neighbor's car because a lot of sidewalks don't have buffer zones like they used to. the country areas don't even have sidewalks period, and bikeriding next to cars doing 50 mph isn't safe which is a realistic unappealing option for a lot of bikeriders. Preschools shouldn't be sitting down watching Disney eating potato chips all day with a 50 year old slide but a lot of community resources should help build more environments that allow you to get out of your car.

    April 3, 2012 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Steve

    Most parents are worried about the gang explosion..drive bys, pedophiles, drunk drivers etc etc. Im one of those parents. I am a correctional officer and you would be surprised how many child molestors never see the inside of a prison..instead they go out on probation...you would be surprised how many gang members live around you. 30 years ago child molestation was quite rare, south ameican gangs even rarer still...now you cant drive 5 min in any direction without driving by a child molestor or a gang member. Couple that with all the people hopped up on drugs, alcholo and prescription drugs, untrained illegal immigrants driving 5,000lb cars...do you really want your kids playing around a road? The sad and horrible truth.

    April 3, 2012 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • webcookies

      Right child molestation started by gangs in south america and was brought to the US in the last 30 years...

      What's in your water?

      April 3, 2012 at 02:12 | Report abuse |
  21. McGuffin

    And tomorrow, CNN will run an article about toddlers and sun exposure... I'm onto their game. 🙂

    April 3, 2012 at 02:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. camiwa

    I definitely agree with the article, but I also have a concern.

    I am 39 years old. I am average weight, and as a child I was UNDERweight. But I HATED being outside.

    My father taught me to read at the age of 3. From that point until today, I would much prefer to read, inside (with AC). As a child, I would read while the other children were being loud and obnoxious outside. In fact, I remember once at my after care when the babysitter once pointed to me and yelled "WHY CAN'T YOU ALL BE MORE LIKE HER?" (It was a rainy day and they were stuck inside and OUT OF CONTROL, and I had moved to a quiet corner to read.)

    Don't get me wrong, I did play outside, but it was on my terms. And I HATED when people said "All of you need to go outside" Especially since this generally happened when the other kids were acting up, and I WAS NOT.

    And I definitely am anti-video games (I plan to hold of on those for as long as I possibly can for my children.)

    But I have to admit, as much as I am for children being healthy, and as much as I understand that playing outside is necessary for health and wellness, I am not sure I agree with the mandate that all kids need to "go outside." Oddly, it wasn't until later that I discovered that I was ALLERGIC to just about everything outside, AND I have exercise induced urticaria (hives). So really for some children, like me, outside is a special kind of hell.
    That was probably one of the reasons I was such a quiet child. I hated being outside, and I still get mad when I think about the number of times I had to go out there because the OTHER kids were acting up.

    So we should encourage outside. I agree with that, but consider each child first. Had I been chubby, or hyperactive, I would definitely have encouraged me to play outside more. But I was neither, and I HATED it.

    April 3, 2012 at 02:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • camiwa


      So we should encourage outside, I agree with that, but consider each child first. Had I been chubby, or hyperactive, OR ADDICTED TO MINDLESS VIDEO GAMES, I would definitely have encouraged me to play outside more. But I was underweight, quiet, and in the process of developing an intellect that has served me quite well to this day, and I HATED being outside. I hope to be able to recognize the difference in my own children.

      April 3, 2012 at 02:39 | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      I was exactly like you! I read and read and read starting at age 4 and my mom couldn't get me to go outside to save her life! I was also quite boney and skinny.... :o)

      April 3, 2012 at 10:25 | Report abuse |
  23. Rhonda

    Are the teens who end up shooting classmates kept indoors as small children? Not learning social skills with other children, not learning how to "play"? Instead they play violent video games as soon as they can twiddle a joy stick, and in no time they have a tv in their room to watch violent movies.

    April 3, 2012 at 02:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. JD

    In the winter my daughter barely goes out because it's just way too cold. Especially 0% and below but we do go to familys house and she plays there. Other than winter she plays outside and walks up to two miles a day. She loves walking. Only 3 years old. She doesn't always watch tv either. She plays her own make believe games. She has a real good imagination.

    April 3, 2012 at 03:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Eric Nelson

    There are several non-profit organizations that, through teacher training and play yard design, are addressing this issue specifically with programs of early care and education (child care). One is the Outdoor Classroom Project based in California. Another is Nature Explore based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Other non-profits organize communities and provide community resources and activities. They include Richard Louv's (author of "Last Child in the Woods") organization, the Children and Nature Network (CNN, no pun intended) and the World Forum On Early Care and Education's Nature Action Collaborative for Children. These groups are also focused on getting children, as well as their families outdoors. There's definitely hope. 🙂

    April 3, 2012 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. hypocrites

    this is so funny, our neighbors complained about us letting our kids play outside for so long because they couldn't stand being on their decks overlooking the lake listening to kids playing and having fun in their own backyards. My kids love to play outside but our stuck up nosey neighbors threatened to call cps because they couldn't sit on their decks in peace and drink their wine!

    April 3, 2012 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hannah1

      Good for your neighbors! Taxpaying adults deserve to be able to relax and have a conversation without the din of shrieking little urchins!

      April 3, 2012 at 07:17 | Report abuse |
    • Dave in Portland

      hannah1 – Wrong! You do not have any right to peace and quiet outside if you live in a place where other people also reside and those people are keeping the noise at a normal living volume. Deal with it. You are not special and you do not deserve special treatment.

      This is a big part of the problem these days. Some people are so narcissistic that they expect others to treat them like royalty.

      April 3, 2012 at 12:26 | Report abuse |
  27. Judi

    Perhaps more children would be outside playing if there weren't so many pedophiles scouting the streets and playgrounds every minute of every day! In a day and age when both parents have to work, I can definitely understand a parent not wanting to go hang out with their kid on the playground for an hour or two...especially when dinner has to be made and the house needs to be cleaned and bed time is in two hours! Heaven forbid the child be able to go ride the bike up and down the street without some sick creep lurking around EVERY corner. Not making excuses for the obese by any means, but it truly is harder now than it was 30 years ago! When I was a child, I didn't even have to ask if I could leave the house, I just did it...because it was a different time and the world was a safer place. I would be outside as much as I could with no supervision. Nowadays, its just not possible. As a parent, I feel horrible that my child cannot even go out in the front yard without supervision....and let's face it, I'm a busy Mom. You cant ask your kid to get up on the treadmill to stay in shape....so what's a parent to do?

    April 3, 2012 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Common Sense

      There are just as many pedophiles as there were 30 years ago. The difference is that victims are encouraged to report abuse, and are not made to feel like they are at fault or that they should feel guilty. 30 years ago if a child was molested parents often didn't know because thier child didn't know that it was wrong (warning kids about strangers and bad touches wasn't common practice), or they didn't believe thier child, or worse, they didn't want to report it and have to see thier child suffer from being bullyed or targeted. The culture has changed in the US. Crime is actually much lower than you think, it is just reported more because we as a society have started to treat our victims with dignity and respect, and no longer say things like "well what did YOU do to cause this?"

      April 3, 2012 at 10:38 | Report abuse |
  28. Liz

    My neighborhood is so quiet without kids - no one has any and mine are grown - that it feels like an empty stage set.

    Someone here posted that his/her neighbors complained about the noise of kids.

    I wish those kids lived here: The sound of children playing outside brings back memories of my childhood and that of my kids.

    It's bizarre to think of children sitting indoors in front of screens instead of getting dirty and bumped and scraped from running around and climbing and jumping and riding bikes.

    It also makes me wonder if some childhood ills are linked to poor nutrition - families eating on the run - and lack of exercise.

    April 3, 2012 at 06:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hannah1

      WHERE DO YOU LIVE??? I want to move there! I searched for 2 years for a quiet, peaceful NO-KIDS neighborhood to build a home and retire to. Finally found it. Three months later, some rotten people put up a trailer right next to it and filled it up with foster kids. They will never "grow up and move away" because there's always a fresh supply. My life is a living hell. Let's swap! (FYI: not everyone enjoys the sound of screaming kids, especially if one enjoys reading.) Seriously please tell me where you are!!

      April 3, 2012 at 07:21 | Report abuse |
  29. Liz

    Also, someone else posts about hating to be outdoors as a child and learning later about being allergic to things outdoors.

    Curiously enough, the very act of being in the dirt when you're a kid helps build resistance to any number of potential "toxins." A childhood that's "dirty" - within reason - is also reportedly a childhood with longterm health benefits.

    April 3, 2012 at 06:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Mines

    By looking at my neighbors I'd say it's because it would mean parents would have to come outside as well and that means they can't watch tv or sit on facebook all day. I mean, don't tell me how busy you are when you post four times an hour all day. Of course, then there's the parents who let their toddlers roam the front yard completely unattended.

    April 3, 2012 at 06:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Dalton

    There are so many pedophiles and predators because there are no consequences anymore. We as parents and adults are to blame for it not being a safe world for our kids to play in anymore. Stop worrying about the child molestors "rights" and decide which is more important, the safety and well being of your kids or the sensitive civil liberties of a rapist or child molestor. Stop whining if you dont have the stomach to stand up and do something to protect your family.

    April 3, 2012 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. earthshoes44

    Gee. You think it might have something to do with the fact that very same people who are reporting concerns about this are the same ones who keep warning parents about germs (things your child can catch from playing outside"), having them kidnapped (how people kidnap children and what you can do to prevent it), skin cancer (how just one sun burn increases your child's risk of skin cancer), and allergies (how to protect your child from allergens)? Do they have a clue as to how often parents are advised to keep their children covered up, indoors, and under such close supervision that the kid can't move anyway?

    If I had listened to the authorities when my boys were little they never would have gone swimming in the lake, eaten hot dogs cooked over a grill, or built bike ramps, or climbed trees. Amazingly enough, they all survived to adulthood.

    April 3, 2012 at 06:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Alicia

    Wow, really? Of course they don't, it's called "weather". Guess what? When it's raining, very cold, or extremely hot outside I keep mine indoors.

    April 3, 2012 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicole

      Exactly. I just moved from Seattle where it rains all winter long to Boston, where it's frigidly cold all winter long. Unless you live by the equator, going outside for extended periods of time from Nov – March is not always feasible. And 60 minutes of outdoor play time? How is that going to happen for my 3 yr, 2yr, and 6 month old during these months? I'm all for outdoor play whenever I can get it - but let's get realistic about how often this can happen. The lead author of this study is from Seattle - I wonder if he goes outside for at least an hour every day in the cold, dark Seattle rain?

      April 3, 2012 at 08:02 | Report abuse |
  34. hannah1

    Who cares? That's just less screaming that neighbors have to tolerate. Keep them ALL indoors!

    April 3, 2012 at 07:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave in Portland

      You are obviously a bitter, tired old hag. maybe you should sound -proof your house and keep yourself indoors and leave the outside to those who want to actually co-exist with others.

      April 3, 2012 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
  35. Terry

    So who is buying all of the video games and apps for the iPad that these kids play with while sitting on the couch?

    April 3, 2012 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ML

    That kid in the photo either has a very long torso, or some really short legs.

    April 3, 2012 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. I think...

    How are children not playing outside when 80% of them are at daycare 32 hours a week?

    April 3, 2012 at 07:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Lord Vader

    This is the hope and change brought to you by Obama and the rest of the infidels.

    April 3, 2012 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave in Portland

      Oh grow up. This started long before Obama and will continue no matter which useless party holds the position.

      Nice attempt though. I give it a solid C-. It would have been better if it hadn't been so heavy-handed.

      April 3, 2012 at 12:35 | Report abuse |
  39. fory06

    I think one reason more kids don't play outside is because times have changed. When I was a kid I was outside all thje time however, there was little fear of abduction like there is today. ?For a responsible parent to take his or her child outside, in todays world they should be outside with them, and watching them. It is not that todays parent is worse than parents in the past. In the past parents could say "go out and play" to get rid of the kids. Not so much today.

    Not to mention kids are not supposed to got outside in prime sun, between 10 and 4! (another thing not on parents of the past minds)

    April 3, 2012 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. portland tony

    Just too many people and not enough free open space. Especially in urban areas where traffic and multi-story apartment buildings exist. I'm sure kids in rural areas still enjoy playing outdoors more than their inner city counterparts and those who live in crowded planned housing tracks in the near burbs.

    April 3, 2012 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. elbereth

    I'm 22 years old. When I was a child in California being inside was a freakin' punishment to me, rain or shine. I was out there with my brother until the streetlights came on. If we were good we were rewarded with treats, or a movie. If we were bad we got TV time and video games taken away. My parents weren't afraid to smack us upside the head or yell at us because they were being, well, parents. Quit blaming weather and gadgets, if your kids are fat and lazy with no social skills that's on YOU. Use what's out there to educate yourselves, don't ALLOW some news station or politician tell you how to raise your kids. To this day I love to be outside, and I especially like to read outside, and I ignore the "din of shrieking children"- if a book's good enough I'm dead to the world. There's my 2 cents, heh.

    April 3, 2012 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave in Portland


      April 3, 2012 at 12:36 | Report abuse |
  42. Prakas

    Ah...I miss my younger days riding my bike, visiting friends, and just enjoying the outdoors...Of course that was over a decade ago.... Now life has shifted to texting, applications (or apps for people too lazy to type), and the other useless but expensive electronics out there.

    April 3, 2012 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Taysha

    Sad, but true. We make a point to take our 20-month old twins to the park every evening before dinner/bedtime for 40min-1hr (weather permitting). Swings, slides, gravel patch, flower picking and good old running after dad on the grass =)

    It's not easy to find the time, some things don't get done in the house, but they love it so much it is worth it.

    April 3, 2012 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. ES

    We have a house with a backyard but it is still hard to get the kids to go outside. It is "too hot" for them. We live in Texas. I think the real truth is – they are bored and rather watch TV. When I was a kid there were a lot of other kids to play with outside. Now, nobody is outside. It is not hard to understand since both parents are working until 6-7pm (including myself). And on weekends there is house cleaning, laundry, lawn etc. etc. It is hard to find time to spend a day with kids, but I do my best. I try to take them somewhere once a week. But this is all I can manage with full time job, commute, ballet and swimming lessons and all the house chores.

    April 3, 2012 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anon

      We live in TX too... last summer we had a record, what, 85 days in a row with temperatures over 100 degrees? If we took our children outside for any longer than 15 mins to run around, they would literally pass out from heat stroke. People from the north are posting that they can't take their kids outside for a 3-mo span in the bitter winters, we have the same thing in the summers in the south. It's just not feasible for kids to be able to go outside 365 days a year.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:32 | Report abuse |
    • ES

      Anon, this is true. We cannot go outside at all in summer ( we are in Houston) unless it is somewhere supershady for 30 min. Right now the wheather is OK but kids are in school all day. Then they have to do homework when I get back home at 6PM ( because obviously nothing is done until mom gets home). So, that only leaves the weekends.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:53 | Report abuse |
  45. DP

    Wait a minute... the standard is EVERY day? My kids play outside for hours most days, but if the stat is based off never missing a day, that's a great big non-issue to me.

    April 3, 2012 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kdf

      yes, a child should have time outside playing EVERY DAY. The only major exceptions would be dangerous weather. So even if it is snowing... outside, even if it is mid summer and raining (not thunder storming though) outside.... even if it is only 32 degrees outside... outside time is vital. You dont see the amish taking days out...

      April 3, 2012 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
    • snowy_state

      Agreed. Some of us live in states that experience very severe winters. Should we send our preschoolers outside every day, for at least 60 minutes? The study has set an impractical and dangerous criterion for success.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:17 | Report abuse |
  46. PantyRaid

    When I was a little tot, my mother wouldn't even let me climb trees. The next door neighbor was my only friend she let me have and that was also on her time. Because of this, at times I feel I'm socially inept. I was always chubby as a child and was able to drop the weight in High School, but the long term damage had already been done.

    Please people, let your children play outside and be children. If you treat them like pets, you will breed a psycho killer.

    April 3, 2012 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kdf

      that is sad... and I am sorry you missed out on all that fun. ha, it was the opposite in our house... my mom would lock us OUT of the house and we always had to play outside... for hours! But i would not trade that time for anything.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:14 | Report abuse |
  47. Christy Ford

    The common wisdom today seems to be that letting kids spend lots of time outside playing will lead to injuries or kidnapping. So you hardly ever see kids playing games together outside for an hour or more like you used to. It's sad.

    April 3, 2012 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wileysunshine

      That's coupled with schools removing recess from the curriculum.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:24 | Report abuse |
  48. kdf

    Parents today are lazy and are hardly involved at all in their child’s growth and development. Especially the mothers. I am not sure why woman fought so hard to be equal to men, but in the end, our kids are paying for it as they are not fed healthy, they get very little if ANY exercise and any more, a parent’s priority is their work as they are accessible 24 hours a day. As a very sought after babysitting/caregiver, if the last 10 years, the only time any of the kids I watched had a sit down dinner WITHOUT the TV on or the phones or the iPods was when I made them do it with me.

    There is zero family time, zero communication and zero interaction anymore. Kids grow up with the TV as their parents and the phones and earpieces as their friends.

    As for the main topic in this article... toddlers not getting enough time outside, well, this would be because most of them spend 10-12 hours in a daycare center and weeks are full of running errands.

    April 3, 2012 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. MomofThree

    I always told my kids they needed to be outside to help their brains grow. We fenced the backyard so I could feel comfortable and they were told no TV from 10 am until 4pm (when I needed time to make dinner). Worst of all, I made the older ones wait until the youngest could read before I would buy video games. Torture! I have great pictures of forts built under the patio table, bug collections, cowboy dress up. Let them use their imaginations and don't be afraid of a little dirt.

    April 3, 2012 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. pat

    I once got a scolding from a mother (she literally knocked on my door) after suggesting her kid go play ball down the street at the park versus smack dab in the middle of the street out front with cars all over the place.

    April 3, 2012 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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