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Parents take girls outside to play less often than boys: study

Lindsay MacAdam
Shine On
April 5, 2012

Thinking back to childhood days, it's safe to say that most of us will fondly recall bike rides, swimming pools, hopscotch, jumprope, running through sprinklers, games of tag and dance routines on the front lawn. Childhood was, in a word, active. But times are changing.

A study published recently in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, has found that American preschool aged girls are 16 per cent less likely to be taken outside by parents than similarly aged boys. The study also found that nearly half of preschoolers aren't taken outside to play by their parents on a daily basis.

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As for the discrepency between boys and girls, the New York Times reports, "the researchers behind this article suggest that little boys may be perceived by parents as more in need of vigorous activity, more athletically inclined or even more willing to get dirty."

The study, conducted by the Seattle Children's Hospital and the University of Washington, looked closely at the behaviour of 8,950 American children in their final year of preschool.

Parents of the selected children were asked one question: "In the past month, how often did you take [child's name] outside for a walk or to play in yard, a park or a playground?" The response categories consisted of the following: "once a day or more," "few times a week," "few times a month," "rarely" or "not at all."

Related: Video games foster cooperation, says new research

Only 51 per cent of parents selected "once a day or more," reports the New York Times. However, it should be noted that the time of year that the parents were asked this question was not disclosed.

The lead author of the study, paediatrician and researcher Pooja Tandon, says children's outdoor time is critical in reducing the instances of obesity. "For young children, exercise and play is interrelated. Being outdoors is more conducive to both," she tells the Daily Mail.

And Tandon doesn't shy away from putting some of the blame for lack of outdoor activity on childcare centres. "There are high-quality childcare centres where kids go out regardless of weather. But in a lot of settings, they do more indoor recesses," she says.

Outdoor play time isn't the only reason preschoolers have made the news recently. They are also dealing with higher rates of tooth decay. See the CBC news video below for the story.

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