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Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children: Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect
Detail: From the authors:

We have observed that the nature and amount of free play in young children has changed. Our purpose in this article is to demonstrate why play, and particularly active, unstructured, outdoor play, needs to be restored in children’s lives. We propose that efforts to increase physical activity in young children might be more successful if physical activity is promoted using different language—encouraging play—and if a different set of outcomes are emphasized—aspects of child well-being other than physical health. Because most physical activity in preschoolers is equivalent to gross motor play, we suggest that the term "play" be used to encourage movement in preschoolers. The benefits of play on children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development are explored.

We know of few systematically collected data that describe exactly how the amount and/or nature of play in young children has changed; there is indirect evidence that children are doing less of it, less without structure imposed by adults, and less of it outdoors. Between 1981 and 1997 children’s free playtime dropped by an estimated 25%, and this change appears to be driven by increases in the amount of time children spend in structured activities.2 Within children’s unstructured time, there are sedentary and passive activities such as watching television, using the computer, and playing videogames that compete with active play. For example, compared with preschool children who watch less than 2 hours of television a day, those who watch 2 hours or more spend an average of 30 minutes less time each day playing outside.3

We aim to demonstrate why play, and particularly unstructured outdoor play, needs to be restored to the lives of children.

Authors:Hillary L. Burdette, MD, MS; Robert C. Whitaker, MD, MPH

Source: Archives of Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Vol 159, No. 1, Jan 2005
Date: January 1 2005