Childrearing

Parents Don’t Think That Their Little Pre-K Princess Needs Any Outdoor Play

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playgroundAttribute this one to gender stereotypes or the demands of high-energy little boys, but modern parents are less inclined to take their preschool-aged daughter for any yard time. Perhaps it’s just like the line in Becoming Jane in which young ladies only need to stimulate their figures by taking a turn about the room.

TIME reports a small, but noticeable gender disparity in a study of 8,950 American kids surveyed the final year before entering elementary school. Not only were half of these kids not taken outside to play everyday due to overworked, overbooked, rushing parents, but girls are 16% less likely to be taken to the playground than boys. TIME cites the conclusion by Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine:

Previous research has shown there is a sex disparity in physical activity levels, with boys being more active than girls from a young age and substantial declines in girls’ physical activity as they get older.

One philosopher argued that “gendered standards of cleanliness” and play 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.

Given the association between outdoor time and physical activity and numerous potential other benefits, our findings support giving particular attention to the study and promotion of outdoor play for girls.

Dr. Pooja Tandon, a pediatrician and researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the lead author of the study, told the publication that the gender disparity was most likely a combination of three factors: girls are assumed to be less athletic from birth, boys usually “demand” to be taken outside more, and just sheer societal norms.

Speaking of societal norms, fathers aren’t exactly gunning to the backyard to throw around the pigskin with their sons as the stereotype goes. In fact, mothers are more likely to escort the kids outside to play than fathers, dealing a modern blow to that image of dad and son taking a baseball mit to the park.

Other numbers illuminated why children of color tend to be more overweight, as Asian mothers were 49% less likely to accompany their child to a playground. Black mothers were 41% less likely, and Hispanic mothers 20% less likely to take a stroll to the swing sets, which is is no doubt impacted by packed work schedules and little to no safe playground accessibility.

Also, you have a great new reason to fire the babysitter you don’t like as as preschoolers who attend childcare usually receive 28 hours of outdoor play a week. Yet, those kids who are put under the care of a sitter or nanny in the home are 42% less likely to go outside everyday.

Gym bunny mothers who frequent the gym four times a week were reportedly 50% more likely to take the tots outside once a day versus those mommies who aren’t so active. Yet, what’s most revealing about these numbers is that even with an active mommy, this gender disparity for girls holds true. Meaning that even if you’re a mother who hits up Pilates and kickboxing twice a week, you still might be subconsciously holding onto some of those gender conventions for your little girl.

(photo: holbox/Shutterstock)