Kids Benefit More Playing With Boxes Than With Expensive Toys

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

Cheap parents rejoice! Australian researchers have found that giving buckets, boxes and other makeshift toys to children help them be more creative and active than being in a normal playground setting.

Based on long-term research by scientists from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the new study found that simple, common objects given to children during recess and lunchtime can minimize sedentary time by 50 percent, improve imagination and improve social and problem-solving skills.

“Conventional playgrounds are designed by adults – they don’t actually take into consideration how the children want to play,” said study author Brendon Hyndman, currently a physical education lecturer at the University of Western Sydney. “At a time when childhood obesity is growing and playgrounds are shrinking, we need a creative approach to stimulate physical activity among schoolchildren.”

The study, which included 120 students between the ages of 5 and 12, involved placing buckets, pipes, exercise mats, hay bales and swimming pool noodles in the play areas at Emmaus Catholic Primary School in the Australian town of Ballarat. The researchers then recorded the students’ behavior. These behaviors were compared with those of children at another school in the area which had conventional play equipment such as monkey bars and slides.

The researchers found that sedentary behavior, considered sitting or standing around, dropped from nearly 62 percent to just over 30 percent of children when the kids were provided with the additional items by the researchers. The study team also found that students who played with the common objects took 13 more steps per minute and played more vigorously compared to those in the conventional playground.

“These results could be applied to anywhere that children play and shift the debate on the best way to keep our children healthy,” Hyndman said.

The new study comes after a report presented in November at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013 found that today’s children are about 15 percent less physically fit than their parents from a cardiovascular standpoint.