Have you ever wondered what your child is doing at preschool all day long? Chances are, they are not getting any exercise. Seattle researchers recently released a study finding that kids in daycare and preschool get well below the amount of physical activity they should have each day.
According to the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, preschoolers only get about 48 minutes of exercise a day, even though health experts recommend that they get at least two hours of daily moving and shaking. For the study, researchers went into 10 preschools in the Seattle area and monitored what the kids did each day over a 50-day period. They also recruited 100 children (presumably with the permission of their parents) to wear Fitbit-style devices that tracked their daily activity levels.
For each day, this was the typical breakdown: 29 percent of the time at preschool was spent napping, 12 percent was spent in active play, and a whopping 59 percent was spent sitting still. The average amount of time the kids spent outdoors was less than 30 minutes each day. It would seem that the push to build academics and meet baseline objectives has taken the place of active games and general free play.
According to Dr. Pooja Tandon, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle and the lead author of the study, preschool guidelines recommend that kids this age get at least one hour of structured, adult-led exercise and one hour of unstructured free-play exercise each day.
Because the thing is, kids this age really want to keep moving. In fact, I can only imagine the struggle involved in trying to keep preschoolers still and inactive for the majority of their day. As anyone who has even been around a preschool-aged child can tell you, kids this age have two speeds — full tilt and sound asleep. The study's authors note that forcing so much inactivity on kids sets the stage for less active elementary-aged kids and eventually, inactive adults.
It's particularly a shame when you think of all of the ways that movement can be worked into a preschooler's day. From singing songs that involve standing and moving (like "Wheels on the Bus") to spelling out letters with their bodies to fun games of Simon Says and tag, preschool should be all about movement with just a small emphasis on helping kids prepare for the big leagues of kindergarten.
Of course, this was a small study that only looked at what was happening in a handful of local preschools. But it does get me thinking about how much standardized testing has trickled down to affect the minds and bodies of even the youngest kids.
If your kids are in preschool, it's worth asking about how much exercise they get at school each day. If it's not enough, maybe it's time to shake things up.
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