Family and Relationships

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Day Care Centers Are Keeping Kids Inside

March 27, 2009 09:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Research shows that U.S. day care programs are not letting children play outside for surprising reasons, adding to concerns over childhood obesity and inactivity.

Children Kept Inside By Parent Fears and Day Care Neglect

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Researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that children are kept indoors if they are wearing flip flops instead of sneakers, or are not wearing the appropriate clothing or coat for outdoor play.

Some parents intentionally send children to school without a coat so that the child will be kept inside, which can result in entire classes being forced to remain indoors all day.

To make matters worse, day care teachers often talk or text on cell phones during outdoor playtime, or feel they are too overweight to encourage children to be active outdoors.

Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder,” is a proponent of allowing children greater freedom to explore the outdoors, despite the risks.

“My kids didn’t run as freely as I did. I do think, though, that we have to be very intentional now about getting our kids outdoors,” he said in an interview with U.S. News & World Report.

Studies show that playing outside offers distinct benefits to children, including obesity prevention, greater focus, and enhanced imagination and sense of place. Disturbingly, the percentage of young girls who remain physically active through their teenage years is declining.

Related Topics: The importance of nature in people’s lives

An article by Louv and Howard Frumkin, the Director of the National Center for Environmental Health, cited evidence suggesting that “people benefit so much from contact with nature that land conservation can now be viewed as a public health strategy.” Contact can be “small scale,” such as office plants or trees near apartment buildings,” said the article.

In a 2005 interview with NPR, author Richard Louv blamed adults for telling children that electronics are the future, and scaring children away from nature with a “boogieman is in the woods” mentality. In addition, society has been “telling kids unconsciously that nature is in the past, [that] it really doesn’t count any more,” Louv said.

There is also the long-term impact that children disengaged from nature can have on the environment. Two mothers in Oregon made a documentary that explores the reasons why fewer children are playing outside. The broader question posed by the film is “who will look after the Earth if our kids are disconnected from the natural world?”  said Hessen Schei, one of the filmmakers.
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