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Flip Flops, Mulch and No Coat: Study Identifies Surprising Barriers to Outdoor Activity for Kids in Child-Care Centers
Date:4/30/2008

ren aged 3-6 years are in some form of non-parental child care. 56% percent of 3-6 year old children spend time in centers, including child care centers and preschools. Her team began by exploring child-care center staff members' perceptions of barriers to children's physical activity. They conducted focus groups with 49 staff members from 34 child-care centers in the Cincinnati area (including Montessori, Head Start and centers in the inner city and suburban areas) as the first of several studies on this subject.

"We found several previously unreported barriers that meant kids had to stay inside, including inappropriate footwear such as flip flops and inappropriate clothing for the weather," said Dr. Copeland. In some child care centers, if one child in the group shows up without a coat on a chilly day, she noted, that means the whole group has to stay inside. Even more surprising to the researchers was the fact that the child-care staff members said some parents appear to intentionally keep their children's coats (or send children without coats) so they'd have to stay inside, which staff attributed to parents' concerns about the child getting injured or dirty, or a having a cold that may be exacerbated by cold weather.

Teachers said they also felt pressure from some parents who were more concerned with children spending time on cognitive skills, such as reading and writing, than on the gross motor and socio-emotional skills (such as kicking a ball or negotiating with another child for a turn on the slide) that are best learned on the playground.

Then there was the mulch factor. "The staff members who participated in the groups were really concerned about mulch in the play area," said Dr. Copeland. "Many said that the kids eat the mulch, or use it as weapons, or it gets caught in their shoes. It also requires constant upkeep. It's certainly not something that we had anticipated as an issue, but judging by the amount of and intensity of the disc
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SOURCE Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
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