Physical exercise has taken a backseat to sedentary activities in many childcare centers. Wonder why?
Did you know that a full 75 percent of preschool-aged children in the United States are enrolled in some kind of daycare setting? With this many kids in daycare, it might seem like the conditions are right for a monster game of Red Rover, Red Rover. But according to a report published in the journal Pediatrics, too many children in childcare are missing out on the slides and swings of playground time and are instead spending most of their day engaged in sedentary activities.
Why the lack of physical activity for daycare kids, especially in an age when childhood obesity is such a pressing public health concern? Talking to a focus group of 49 childcare providers from 34 centers in Cincinnati, Ohio, researchers were able to identify three main barriers to children's physical activity. Do these sound familiar?
- Injury Concerns: In response to stricter licensing codes across most states, playgrounds have become less physically challenging and, therefore, less interesting to children, daycare providers report. Workers also fess up that parents many times ask staff members to restrict their children's physical activity during the day in order to reduce injury risk.
- Financial Restraints: Installing and maintaining an abundance of playground equipment is identified as cost prohibitive for many childcare centers, especially for smaller centers. As a result, worn out or broken equipment may not be replaced, leaving fewer play choices for children.
- Increased Focus on Academics: Rather than devote a sizeable chunk of the day to physically engaging activities and free time playing outdoors, a majority of providers say they feel pressure from state mandates and from parents to focus on academics—at the expense of gross motor play.
Because time in daycare may be the only opportunity for outdoor play for many children, researchers say that daycare regulations should be double-checked to make sure policies designed to protect children's safety do not detract from opportunities for physical activity.
If you are concerned, talk to your childcare provider about how much time children spending playing versus seated activities. And if the playground at your child's daycare has plainly seen better days? What better time to step into your supermom shoes and spearhead a playground fundraiser?