Playing outside is essential for children, not only for their physical well-being, but also for their mental and emotional well-being, researchers have said.
They have found that the amount of time children spend playing freely in the outdoors has fallen in recent years, partially due to the ever-increasing role that television and video games appear to play in many young lives.
However while the public's main concern appears to be the issue of obesity, there are other concerns.
"We think it is important to emphasise to parents that reductions in free play might negatively impact children in other ways, such as limiting their ability to be creative, get along with other children, problem solve and be calm and attentive when necessary", researcher Dr Hillary L. Burdette of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia told Reuters Health.
Dr Burdette and fellow researchers emphasised that play is not just about fitness or weight. It also benefits social, emotional and cognitive development. Unstructured playtime, they said, has the potential to improve emotional well-being, as it may reduce anxiety, aggression and sleep problems.
They also highlighted the role of the community in helping to 'resurrect' outdoor play, by providing safe outdoor spaces, such as playgrounds.
Their findings are published in the medical journal, Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
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