Children living in poor urban areas don’t have enough opportunities for daily, unstructured playtime, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
These kids don’t have as many safe places to play, and many schools facing budget constraints have been forced to cut physical education programs and even recess.
A previous AAP study suggested their suburban counterparts were “overscheduled” with structured activities that left little time for the kind of free play that the group says spurs physical and mental development.
"That's not the case for poor children. But they're still not getting free, unstructured playtime," AAP lead researcher Dr. Regina M. Milteer said.
About a third of U.S. schools in the highest poverty areas have eliminated recess entirely, said Milteer.
Milteer said free play helps children learn social skills and “negotiation,” and allows them to exercise their imagination.
“They learn to play well in the sandbox,” she said, and referenced a 2009 study that found kids who had regular recess were rated higher on classroom behavior by their teachers. That study also showed those who did not have regular recess tended to be African American, low-income kids in poor urban areas.
Milteer recommended that schools keep recess periods and physical education programs, and that neighborhoods and schools provide more access to safe play spots.