Child's Play Term Paper

Pages: 7 (1871 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Children

Child Play

Different Play Behaviors in Indoor and Outdoor Play Amongst Members of an Early Childhood Educational Group

One of the major issues facing modern Western society, especially within the United States but increasingly in Europe and other industrialized nations as well, is a growing prevalence of obesity among both children and adults. The evidence for this can be seen all around -- sizes sold in standard stores have increased, news stories regarding new airline policies stemming from irate passengers that could not fit into a single seat became quite common for a period, and the number of diet plans and weight loss products has also noticeably increased in recent decades. A major industry has been built out of feeding people to the point of obesity, and another major industry exists that promises to get people thin, but the health of real people is caught in the battle between these two opposing industries.

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Many different causes have been proposed as underlying the growing obesity epidemic, including the rise in sugar content in food, the marketing and availability of junk food and increased separation of most people from the true sources of their food, as well as a decrease in physical activity in these countries as they move away from production and towards office jobs that require a great deal of sitting and sedentary behavior. Both of these causes are likely working in tandem to create the weight problem many in the Western world are currently facing, and an increased attention to nutrition and healthy eating has caught hold in many countries. Youth education and reform programs have been especially popular in this regard.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Child's Play Assignment

Less forthcoming have been program and information regarding the importance of physical activity in the maintenance of a healthy weight, and while a great deal of attention has been paid to the psychology of eating and over-eating, the psychology of exercise and attitudes towards outdoor and physical activities has not been focused on to at all the same degree. Physicians and clinicians have long extolled the importance of physical activity to their patients, of course, but an understanding of the different motivating factors for sedentary behavior and physical activity, especially outdoor physical activity, has yet to be achieved or even truly attempted in a focused manner. The research that is proposed and described herein will attempt to address and correct this imbalance in the research, in a highly specific and narrowly focused manner, using a select population to better understand attitudes towards activities taking place indoors and more physical activities that take place outdoors.

Specifically, observations of the differing attitudes of a population of individuals in an early childhood (two to four years of age) education towards indoor and outdoor play activities will be made, in order to extrapolate a preliminary understanding of the different perceptions of indoor vs. outdoor activities in the population at large. Early childhood interventions for weight issues have been suggested as being of immense importance in current nutritional programs, as it is in childhood that attitudes towards food are largely set. It stands to reason that attitudes towards indoor and outdoor activities would also largely depend on early childhood experiences, making observation at this age especially useful.

The idea that outdoor play and activities are important for children in early childhood has been growing, and studies show that the perception of outdoor play and physical activity as a condition for a "good" childhood is quite high (Kernan & Devine 2010). When weather and other factors limit the availability and practicality of outdoor play activities and prolonged physical activity, especially in early childhood educational facilities that serve larger populations of children, there is the perception of a reduced quality of the experience in the facility by instructors/care providers (Kernan & Devine 2010). Overall physical activity in children of this age worldwide appears to be declining slightly, though results are not entirely clear on this point in the currently available literature, and this would translate to a lower quality of life in early childhood and potentially problems with physical activity later in life (Kernan & Devine 2010; Louie & Chan 2003).

Indoor play systems made to emulate outdoor play-yards and structures such as jungle gyms have been put forward as possible solutions to the problems of inclement weather and other issues that limit outdoor activities in early childhood education, with some degree of success (Maday 2005). These structures are unable to provide the full range of outdoor activities and the play potential of the outdoors themselves, of course, and thus though encouraging physical activity to some degree the applicability of motivators and attitudes towards these activities later in life might be reduced when compared to actual outdoor activities (Maday 2005). The difference between physical and actual outdoor activities must be distinguished.

The reduction in early childhood physical activity that has been noted also showed a clear and continuing difference in the ways that the different genders perceived outdoor activities, and the levels of physical activity in which they engaged (Louie & Chan 2003). Different age groups within the early childhood classification also show large differences in their activity levels and their attitudes towards outdoor activities, suggesting that early intervention programs could be fundamental in establishing long-term positive attitudes towards outdoor activities and physical activity in general (Louie & Chan 2003). These observed trends also increase the immediacy of the need for more research into the behaviors during and attitudes towards outdoor play as opposed to indoor play in early childhood.

Parents have been displaying dissatisfaction with the availability of outdoor play facilities and areas for some time now, and they too have noticed that fewer children play outdoors, and less frequently, than in previous generations (Valentine & McKendrick 1997). These same parents demonstrate a reluctance to let children play outdoors without close supervision, however, which is also a changing trend in parenting style and influence over activities when compared to previous years, and which possibly has an effect on children's attitudes towards outdoor play (Valentine & McKendrick 1997). Independent play has been linked to outdoor play in previous studies, and thus the changing attitudes towards outdoor play might be affecting childhood perspectives of independence, and levels of independence might conversely be affecting attitudes towards outdoor play (Valentine & McKendrick 1997).

Outdoor play has also been associated with an increased appreciation for nature, and more positive attitudes towards engagements with the natural world (White & Stoecklin 2008). There are fears that as access to natural areas becomes increasingly rare for an ever-more urbanized culture, both outdoor play and the nature appreciation that it can foster will suffer, with attitudes of unfamiliarity translating into negative behaviors and attitudes in the long-term (White & Stoecklin 2008; White 2007). For this reason, too, understanding early childhood attitudes towards outdoor play and noting the differences in behaviors is of great importance, providing still more impetus for the study proposed herein. Analyzing differences in behaviors displayed during outdoor play as opposed to indoor play will provide clues as to the attitudes of children towards outdoor play, thus providing possible methods for increasing engagement with outdoor activities and attendant side benefits.

The need for research into the area of early childhood attitudes towards outdoor play should be fairly clear from the evidence presented above: outdoor activity is associated with increased physical activity, which is a great promoter of health and specifically a method of reducing obesity; outdoor activity is also associated with a balanced and "good" childhood by parents and educators, and parents additionally feel that outdoor play is a great producer of independence when adequate facilities/areas are available; finally, outdoor play is associated with a greater appreciation of nature, and developing ways to increase outdoor play will enhance this appreciation and foster greater stewardship.

Hypothesis

Given the observed trends in the literature and the increasing degree to which modern technologies have caused more people to spend a greater amount of their time indoors, it is hypothesized that outdoor play behaviors and attitudes will differ significantly from indoor play behaviors in early childhood. A greater hesitancy to engage in specifically outdoor activities vs. indoor play might be observed, yet louder and more boisterous behavior is expected once children acclimate to the outdoor expectations. Greater levels of independence are also expected, and it is further expected that boys will engage in more physical activity than girls without direct encouragement from instructors. It is also expected that specific attitudes and behaviors will be noticeable that will enable for the development of specific steps to encourage increased outdoor activity, thus providing an immediate practical benefit to the research in addition to the academic knowledge and insights gained.

Methodology

The methodology for this study will include two phases. First, observations will be made by the research at an early childhood education facility with access to on-site and/or nearby outdoor play areas and equipment. Standard facility procedures and schedules will be maintained, and differences in indoor and outdoor play behaviors will be noted. Differences in the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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