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Little girls not playing outside

| September 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

Recalling the old saying that little boys are made of ‘slugs and snails and puppy dog’s tails’ and little girls from ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’, the Seattle Children’s Hospital in the US has published a study attesting that little girls are not getting as much outdoor play time as their male counterparts.

The study surveyed a sample of 8 950 preschoolers, and found that less than half of them played outside on a daily basis. The study also found that girls are 16% less likely to go outside; that mothers are more likely than fathers to engage in fun in the sun; and that Asian, Hispanic and black mothers were the least likely groups to get their children to engage in physical activity outdoors. Mothers who worked outside the home were the most likely to take their children to play in parks.

The study’s lead author, Dr Pooja Tandon, a paediatrician and researcher at the hospital, recommends that very young children play vigorously in the fresh air for at least 60 minutes per day for optimal development of motor skills, vision, cognition, Vitamin D levels and mental health. Tandon has also emphasised that children need to see their parents setting an example every day by exercising outdoors.

The study did not find that safety concerns prevent children from playing outside, and also cancelled out the time children spend in front of television or computers. It’s most shocking finding, however, was the gender discrepancy in outdoor play.

The study suggested that parents “may make more of an effort to take boys outside owing to societal expectations and norms, or boys may demand more outdoor time”. Girls also may be “perceived to have lower athletic ability than boys”, the study noted. This gender disparity may negatively affect girls’ health in a way that goes beyond depriving them of physical activity. The study cited a theory that “gendered standards” of cleanliness and play may “leave girls less exposed to microorganisms commonly found in outdoor environments and may be an explanation for the higher rates of atopic and autoimmune diseases in females”.

Category: Spring 2012

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