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Article
January 2005

Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children: Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa (Dr Burdette); and Mathematica Policy Research Inc, Princeton, NJ (Dr Whitaker).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159(1):46-50. doi:10.1001/archpedi.159.1.46
Abstract

We have observed that the nature and amount of free play in young children has changed. Our purpose in this article is to demonstrate why play, and particularly active, unstructured, outdoor play, needs to be restored in children’s lives. We propose that efforts to increase physical activity in young children might be more successful if physical activity is promoted using different language—encouraging play—and if a different set of outcomes are emphasized—aspects of child well-being other than physical health. Because most physical activity in preschoolers is equivalent to gross motor play, we suggest that the term “play” be used to encourage movement in preschoolers. The benefits of play on children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development are explored.

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