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Research released for Playday 2012 finds that parents have difficulty letting their children play outdoors due to fears of strangers and traffic, after 1,000 adults with children under 15 were surveyed.
Figures show that 49% of parents report a fear of their children encountering strangers, with 46% concerned about traffic and 31% worried at the likelihood of accident or injury.
The announcement comes as communities across the UK are due to celebrate Playday, a campaign that celebrates its 25th anniversary with the hope that parents and teachers embrace this year’s ‘Get out and play!’ initiative.
Marguerite Hunter Blair, chief executive of Play Scotland, says: “Playday is a fantastic opportunity for communities to come together and celebrate play. Children and adults can enter into the true spirit of play which is child focused, spontaneous and fun – it is not a weather dependent event, and you can usually guarantee that everyone will get a bit wet and muddy before the end of the day!”
Launched in 1987 in response to cuts to play services in London, Playday is now coordinated by the combined efforts of Play England, Play Wales, Play Scotland and PlayBoard Northern Ireland, with around 500 community events estimated to be taking place today.
Cath Prisk, Play England director, comments: “Simply playing outside should be a normal, everyday event for all children. If we want to foster the next generation of Olympians and sports stars, then we need children with confidence, who love being active and are confident in tackling challenges. If parents are too afraid to let their children play out – because of fear of strangers, traffic or their children having accidents – then we as a society need to address this fear. Whether that’s a community living in a cul-de-sac agreeing children will be playing out every day, a street applying to the council to close the road for play regularly, or residents volunteering to help local play projects reach more children, we can all do our bit to make sure every day is a Playday.”
Director of Play Wales, Mike Greenaway, discusses why a fear of strangers has become so prominent amongst parents: “Perhaps, as a consequence of the coverage of a number of notable events, as a society we have developed a fear of strangers, fear of accident or injury and crime. Listening to the media, it would appear that this fear is rational, but it isn’t. As a society we have developed an irrational fear that our children are unsafe outside. Compound this with the domination of cars and their drivers, and the world outside the front door doesn’t look particularly attractive for anyone who wants to play there ... and children regularly tell us that outside is where they want to play. Children value time, quality places and freedom to play in their own way; we need to support them, recognise that for their wellbeing, they need to play outside and that it’s safer than we think.”
Jacqueline O’Loughlin, CEO of PlayBoard Northern Ireland, urges parents to recognise the health benefits of children playing outdoors: “This year’s theme ‘get out and play’ is timely given the mounting concerns about children’s physical health and emotional well-being. For children, playing and exercise is the same thing and getting outdoors in the fresh air is most definitely conducive to both.”