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Although they believe freedom to play and take risks is an important part of a child’s development, half of parents do not let their children play outside without supervision.
A survey exploring parent’s and children’s opinions about play discovered generational gaps between how parents played as children and the choices they make about letting their children play.
While parents recalled fields, woods and the street as their favourite places to play, children chose areas closer to home including the park, the garden and the home.
Children's Museum, Eureka! located in West Yorkshire conducted the survey to explore contemporary trends in play by asking over 2,800 parents and children about playing.
Leigh-Anne Stradeski, Eureka! chief executive, said: “Parents need to be given the tools and confidence to allow their children more freedom to play outside or the next generation of children will become more house bound than this one.”
However children backed up claims made by parents that children only spent a small part of their day using technology, with over 80 per cent of children saying they preferred to play outside as opposed to watching TV indoors.
The majority of children showed a keen preference to unstructured imaginative free play as opposed to organised games and activities.
Rebecca Caswell, strategic lead for play, Eureka!, said: “Play, in all its forms, needs to become a valued and cherished activity within the family unit and further endorsed by the national government and local authorities through the provision of play grounds, play spaces and playful cultural activities that encourage families to play together more often.”
Eureka! has suggested a rise in the restriction of where and how children play is due to a rising parental anxiety about dangers within the community.
One parent explained: “My kids don’t have the same freedom as I had. I wouldn’t let them play out of the garden without supervision. I wish I could but it’s just not worth the risk.”
Parents said an increase in road traffic, ‘stranger danger’ and a lack of community spirit prevents children from having the same quality of play they had in their childhood with nearly 60 per cent of parents admitting they did not let their child play outside of their garden alone. Eureka! experts have now warned outdoor play is important to providing strong childhood memories which in turn have a positive effect as children in adulthood.
A parent completing the survey said: “I just wish it felt safer for children to play outside like we used to do.”
A third parent added: “When I was little we were able to play in the street without parents being afraid that something would happen to us.”