Possible Health Effects
A clinical report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on Children in Poverty published in 2011, discusses the trend of reducing or even eliminating recess in public schools and child care facilities. It suggests that reducing play time is actually hurting academic progress and contributing to childhood obesity. It also suggests that unstructured play supports social, physical, emotional and academic learning by increasing attentiveness. Though a structured physical education class may be included in the day, it does not produce the same effects as unstructured outdoor play.
In most states licensing regulations require that children spend a portion of their day outside. The article outlining a study done on the importance of children and nature was called The frequency of parent-supervised outdoor play of U.S. preschool age children, was published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. (Mary Guiden, Public release date: 2-Apr-2012) it states:
"Preschool age children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day," said Dr. Tandon. "But many preschoolers are not meeting that recommendation. Young children need more opportunities to play outdoors and to help them be more active."
Parents often ask providers to keep their children inside. They fear that their child will become ill in inclement weather. This concern is voiced more often in infant and toddler classrooms. Studies have proven this is a false assumption. If a child is dressed for the weather, and not showing signs of illness it is perfectly fine to get them into the fresh air, even if it is for a few minutes.
- (Standard 18.104.22.168 Playing Outdoors: This handout was produced and published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on safety planning when playing outdoors.)
Obesity in young children is on the rise and has become a major concern. This trend encompasses not only eating habits, but outdoor physical activity. It is not uncommon to see children sitting or milling around on the playground. It is up to us as educators to get up and get those children moving.
The outdoor play space is the outdoor classroom. It should include activities, materials and equipment that can be used both independently and teacher directed. Physical activities, games, enriched materials and equipment for indoors and outdoors should be included when preparing the weekly lesson plan.