China / Society

Chinese kids lack sleep, outdoor activities

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-01 07:42

Children under 6 in China are among those who have the least amount of sleep, outdoor activities and quality time with parents compared to peers around the globe, says a report on early childhood released in Shanghai on Thursday.

The report by Gymboree, an early childhood education service provider, is based on a survey conducted in early 2012 that polled some 7,500 families in 14 countries.

Chinese kids lack sleep, outdoor activities

The survey found that Chinese children under the age of 6 sleep for an average of 9 hours and 15 minutes every day, lower than the global average of 10 hours and 9 minutes, ranking third last among the countries, which included Japan, South Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The average time for outdoor activities for children under 6 in China was about 52 minutes, the least in the 14 polled countries, and only 25 percent of the global average of 3 hours and 45 minutes.

The survey also found that Chinese parents spend less quality time with their children than their peers in other countries. In Canada, a child stays with at least one of its parents for more than 23 hours (including sleeping time) every day, while the figure in China is only 12 hours (including sleeping time), the least of the 14 polled countries.

About 53 percent of Chinese children are raised by grandparents and babysitters instead of parents, according to the survey.

When asked about early childhood education methods, more than 70 percent of Chinese parents listed teaching children to recognize Chinese characters, recite poems and speak English as their primary focus.

The survey found that Chinese parents tend to teach their kids to read when they are very young. Parents in Shanghai are inclined to teach a foreign language to their kids, especially English, while parents in Beijing prefer making children recite Chinese poems from past dynasties.

Almost all the Chinese parents said they wished their children could master a musical instrument, and 70 percent said the piano is their first choice.

Many Chinese families have undervalued the significance of cultivating awareness and interests in music, painting and social skills, said Lan Hai, a child psychologist with the Beijing-based Schwabing Education.

"Parents need to let kids be kids and enjoy their childhood, otherwise children's imaginations and creativity may be nipped in the bud," said Lan.

Wan Qiqi, a 3-year-old girl, speaks Chinese, English and French because her family wishes her to become a "global citizen", said Wan's mother, Zhang Yunfeng, a 34-year-old housewife.

"I know that people may think that my husband and I are pushing the kid too hard as we ask her to learn English and French for more than five hours every day, but it seems that Qiqi loves learning," said Zhang.

Wan said if she didn't learn foreign languages, she would spend more time sleeping, playing with her pet dog and learning to draw.

Han Feng, a 35-year-old father of a 2-year-old boy, said he feels great pressure as a father. Han said he is the only son to his own parents, and he feels that he is not even mature enough to take care of himself, let alone a baby son.

"The commitment to the boy is too scary, so I just leave him with my parents who are more experienced than me," said Han.

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