Finds Decline In Outdoor Play
Dr. Rhonda Clements
summer approaching, many New York City parents can recall childhood
memories involving stickball, sidewalk chalk, handball, jump rope,
and a variety of child-created games. Some might even recall when
kids in every neighborhood of every borough in New York played
stoopball, hopscotch, and tag. One could assume that the current
generation of children will have similar memories of outdoor experiences.
However, new research indicates that only 33% of today’s kids
participate in hopscotch, jump rope, and a variety of street games
compared to 85% of their moms when they were children.
Mothers find that outdoor play, reduces their child’s stress (97%),
and allows opportunities for children to be expressive and noisy
(93%). Moving vigorously in the outdoors also positively impacts
their physical skills (93%). Sixty-seven percent also identified
outdoor play as a means for children to interact with children
from other cultures. The latter benefit of outdoor play directly
reflects increasingly important neighborhood and community goals
in New York City.
Has outdoor play decreased? The results indicate that 85% of the
mothers agreed that their child or children played outdoors less
often than a generation ago. In fact, 70% of the mothers played
outdoors daily, compared with only 31% of their children today.
Furthermore, when the mothers did play outdoors, 56% of them remained
outdoors for three or more hours, compared with only 22% of today’s
children who play three or more hours outside. This is a major
change in just one generation.
Researchers, parents and educators alike know that the benefits
of outdoor active play are many. Children can relieve stress,
develop leadership skills within varied peer groups, create games
and form memories with siblings, increase physical strength, form
greater awareness of their surroundings, and start to grow an
appreciation of nature to last a lifetime.
Of no surprise, obstacles that prevent today’s children from spending
more time outdoors include the child’s large dependency on television
viewing (85%) and computer games (81%). In addition, 82% of the
mothers identified safety concerns and crime as limiting factors,
and 77% of the parents indicated that they now lack adequate time
to be outdoors with their children. These obstacles to outdoor
play, in New York City and the rest of the United States, do influence
the child’s healthy growth and development.
To assist parents in insuring that all children experience the
joys of outdoor play, The American Association for the Child’s
Right To Play will hold a play park event at the Bronx Zoo, June
20–22 which is designed to inspire a child’s imagination and encourage
cognitive, physical and social development. #
Rhonda Clements is the President of the American Association for
the Child’s Right to Play.
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