Wrapping Our Children in Cotton Wool is stopping them enjoying outdoor play, an article in today’s Daily Mail reports, highlighting some depressing statistics from Play England http://mrkt.ms/wgtQ6L
Here’s some of the highlights (well lowlights):-
“children are less than a third as likely to play outside as their parents were when they were young.”
“Parents are now so over-protective towards their children that one youngster in five does not go outside to play.”
“A third of youngsters have never climbed a tree, or built a den, and one in ten cannot even ride a bike.”
“Just 21 per cent of today’s six to 15-year-olds play outdoors daily near their home, compared to 71 per cent of their parents when they were young.”
Our cotton wool culture is certainly a contributory factor and one we’ve blogged about in the past. However, there’s one important, vital, crucial, key fact missing (I know that’s an overkill on adjectives but I do think it’s a big omission) if you want to play outside near home – you need somewhere to do it! Somewhere that is safe and stimulating i.e. not a busy road, not a small weird shaped bit of landscaping and not a woefully underfunded park strewn with litter and graffiti.
Consider this, the poll also found that “seven in ten parents consider taking their children to an outside space to play to be a real treat and children feel the same, with a reported 59 per cent wishing they could play outside more.”
Why should taking children to an outside space be a real treat? Well it’s a treat because all the spaces that provided for good outdoor play, places that our generation took for granted, are sadly lacking through years of poor planning and cuts to open space maintenance budgets.
The Mail’s quotes Nick Hurd, the minister for civil society, ‘I think we all know the importance of play to children,’ he said. ‘Over the past ten years a culture of red tape has stifled the freedom of children to climb trees, make dens and enjoy the simple pleasure of outdoor play.’
Now my experience, as parent whose children love the outdoors, is that it’s not red tape that stops children from climbing trees or making dens (unless the tape is wrapped around the tree) it’s more the lack of a trees to climb or places to build a den. Children have a natural curiosity if you provide a stimulating environment it doesn’t take much encouragement for them to find adventure.
Catherine Prisk, director of Play England, hits the mail on the head when she say: ‘Play is essential for children’s health and happiness now, and is also essential for making friends, building key skills for the future and for feeling you are part of a community.’
So if ‘we all know the importance of play to children’ come on then! Let’s have a planning system that values, protects and provides new places for play (not necessarily parks but stimulating spaces throughout every neighbourhood). And let’s have proper finance committed that ensure that all new and existing space can be maintained to a level where people want to use them. Open Space isn’t a treat it should be a fundamental right.