Education & Family

Children 'prefer to play outdoors than watch TV'

tug-of-war Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The adults surveyed agreed that it was good for children to take risks when playing

Children would rather be playing outdoors than watching television, but parents' concerns keep them indoors, a survey suggests.

The poll of nearly 3,000 parents and children by Eureka Children's Museum in West Yorkshire found 81% of children prefer playing outside to watching TV.

But half of the parents and carers surveyed said they did not let their child leave their home or garden.

Just 37% said they let their youngster to go to the end of the street.

In total, 2,823 parents and children, aged 5-11, took part in the poll, with an approximate split of 52% children (1,456 respondents) and 48% parents (1,367 respondents).

Risks

The findings show young people are unlikely to stray very far from home, because concerns about road traffic and strangers mean most parents do not let them outside without supervision.

While 95% of adults agreed it was good for children to take risks when playing, about one in four said they would not let their child take these risks without a safe environment to play in.

Many parents believed their children did not have the same freedoms as they did as youngsters.

They put this down to heavier traffic making playing in the streets more dangerous, as well as a lack of community spirit and fear of strangers.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Children said they wanted to explore through unstructured, free-spirited play

"Parents and carers feel that it's beneficial for children to take risks when playing, but remain risk-averse in providing them with the freedom and scope to embark on play that helps them make independent judgments around risk and danger," the report says.

"As a consequence, street play is becoming increasingly rare, with parents citing traffic and stranger danger as reasons for keeping tabs on their children - either indoors or in the back garden."

The survey found 77% (1,042) of parents thought play was an important all-year round activity for their children.

Children themselves said they wanted to explore through unstructured, free-spirited play, with 67% preferring free play.

Fields and woods

The survey also found a clear difference between where today's children play and where their parents went.

The top three places for today's young were the park, the garden and home, while their parents' favourite places were fields, woods and the street.

One parent told the pollsters: "When I was little we were able to play in the street without parents being afraid that something would happen to us."

Another said: "My kids don't have the same freedom as I had at the same age, I would not let them play out of the garden without supervision."

The study concludes: "Parents need to be provided with the tools and confidence to allow their children more freedom to play outside, or the next generation of children will become even more housebound than the current one.

"Parents and carers must be empowered to work with local councils on setting up street play initiatives aimed at closing off streets and instilling a sense of shared trust and collective care within a street community."

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