A recent Reuters Health article “Day Care Providers say kids are too inactive,” reports the findings of a survey of day care workers in Ohio. Approximately 500,000 Michigan children are in some sort of child care setting – many for up to 10 hours per day. If they aren’t moving in day care, they plain out aren’t moving during the day. Moving that little body allows children to focus when needed, make brain connections, learn about spacial awareness and increase hand-to-eye coordination among other benefits – all very important for future school success.
With the increasing obesity trends and First Lady Michelle Obama’s emphasis on physical activity, why are day care providers claiming the children in their care are too inactive during the day? Ohio day care workers surveyed claim the blame is two-fold; safety standards and concerns and pressure to teach children in a more “school-like” fashion.
Safety is a big issue. Michigan Day Care Licensing holds many regulations regarding safety both indoors and outdoors to keep children from becoming seriously injured. There are also regulations stating “The center shall provide daily outdoor play when children are in attendance for 5 or more continuous hours per day.” The Michigan Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Prekindergarten hold the same standards for safety but also include five different standards referencing physical development and movement. No one wants a child to get hurt even a scratch but there needs to be balance between safety and adventure. When children climb, they experience risk taking, problem solving, and how to use their body. When children run they learn balance, spacial awareness and coordination. When children explore nature, they experiment, explore and investigate.
Push-down academics have also created a pressure to “teach” children in a more academic fashion. Kindergarten teachers want help meeting all the expectations they have and ask preschool teachers to teach even more skills that may not be developmentally appropriate. Often providers hear “all the children do is play.” Exactly! Play is the work of the preschooler. Young children learn best when the world around them is explored, investigated and actively manipulated. Beginning reading skills are actually developed when children cross the mid-line (left arm crosses over to the right side and vice versa). Day care providers and preschool teachers are responsible for ensuring children have ample time to move, shake and investigate and educating parents on why they are doing it.