Primary Caregiver Perceptions of Preschool Activities: Understanding the Value of Outdoor Play
Jayasuriya, Avanthi Tanya
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Purpose: It is recommended that preschool-aged children have a total of 60 minutes of outdoor play per 8-hour day in center-based care or preschool. However, most children in these settings only experience half that amount. Teachers describe primary caregivers' concerns as barriers to increasing outdoor playtime. In this study, primary caregivers' perceptions of outdoor playtime in preschool and childcare were explored to better understand how caregivers view outdoor play in center-based settings. Methods: Surveys about outdoor playtime and other components of children's programs were administered to 78 primary caregivers of preschool-aged children currently enrolled in a center-based preschool or childcare program. To help contextualize the survey results, a key informant telephone interview was conducted with a typical survey respondent. Results: On average, primary caregivers reported wanting their child to spend 96.5 minutes playing outside during a single full day of preschool or childcare, significantly more outdoor playtime than the recommended 60 minutes (p<0.0001). However, 60% of primary caregivers reported that they did not know how much time their child actually spent playing outside and 55% reported that they did not know their child's school policy for outdoor play. Only 36% of primary caregivers agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I think story time, ABCs, numbers and science are more important for my child than going outside to play" and 64.1% of primary caregivers would allow their child to play outside in wet weather. The key informant provided three themes to outdoor play: 1) weather, 2) staff involvement, and 3) non-academic time. Conclusions: Primary caregivers support outside play for their child during preschool and childcare. Primary caregivers' lack of knowledge regarding school policies for outdoor play may create barriers to increasing outdoor playtime for preschool-aged children in center-based settings. Few primary caregivers agree that perceived barriers of weather and other learning activities are an issue. Further qualitative research may inform center-based preschool and childcare programs approach to increasing outdoor play.
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