To allow low-income children to reach their full potential, parents and teachers must provide them with ample opportunities to play, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises in a new report.
Play “allows children to develop creativity and imagination while developing physical, cognitive, and emotional strengths,” the report authors write.
Play also may be a valuable tool in the fight against childhood obesity, as it provides children a chance to be physically active. Children who learn to live physically active lifestyles when they’re younger are often more likely to continue staying active as adults, studies have shown.
But low-income students face a number of unique challenges that may prevent them from engaging in an optimal amount of physical activity, the AAP says.
For schools facing budget cuts these past few years, recess and physical education classes are often some of the first to be eliminated. With increased pressure to perform well on standardized tests, many low-income schools have shifted more attention to academics and less to arts and P.E.
The authors also note that even after-school activities have become more oriented toward academics and less towards physical activity. Again, the effects are more profound in underperforming schools.
Outside of school, students in low-income areas may live in neighborhoods rife with gang activity and drug dealing, the AAP says. If these children can’t play outside, instead, they’ll often play video games and stay sedentary for multiple hours.
So... is there a simple solution? Unfortunately, no. The AAP notes that multiple factors can factor into a low-income child’s lack of playtime, and thus, a singular solution would not be appropriate.
That said, they do offer a few ideas:
• Schools need to focus on students’ academics .
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.