Could our societal priorities for young children – safety and school readiness – be hindering children’s physical development?
Recent research published in the February 2012 issue of Pediatrics magazine identified three primary barriers to children’s physical activity while at a childcare facility – injury and financial concerns and a focus on academics. This new study suggests boring playgrounds are partially to blame for childhood obesity and children leading sedentary lives.
The study found that because of stricter licensing codes, playgrounds are now less challenging and in the eyes of children: boring. According to a CBS News article on the subject “not only are kids less interested in the playgrounds, some parents also ask daycare staff to restrict their child’s physical activity for fear of injury.” Study researchers held focus groups with 49 daycare teachers from 34 child-care centers in Cincinnati to get their take on the current state of play and physical activity in preschools.
“Physical activity is essential for kids in this age group for preventing obesity and for development,” study author Dr. Kristen Copeland, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, told Reuters. “But the teachers were saying they were pressured by parents and somewhat by state early learning standards to emphasize classroom learning.”
Are today’s children not going to get the experience of dangling from monkey bars, flying down slides or seeing how high they can swing? Is exhilaration and a sense of adventure no longer appropriate for playgrounds? Please say this isn’t true.
Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, also weighed in with his opinion. Dr. Adesman told WebMD, “The emphasis on pre-academics, concerns about safety, and limitation in budgets and space have created the perfect storm for young children to get less than the desired amount of physical education and exercise. Certain learning takes place through unstructured physical activity, such as coordination, sharing, and possibly creativity.”
Do you believe child advocates should think holistically about potential unintended consequences of policies? How can we keep playgrounds both exciting and safe?