• Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

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How can we encourage children to play outside more?

We all have fond memories of our own childhoods; whether we were climbing trees, riding bikes with our friends or just exploring, we were always out and about. Playing outside was the highlight of many of our upbringings and has traditionally been a childhood staple. Worryingly, there seems to have been a shift in childhood activity in recent years. A 2016 report conducted by The Guardian found that three quarters of children in the UK receive less than an hour of outdoor play per day. Shockingly, this is less exercise than prisoners get – UN guidelines have been put in place to ensure that prisoners receive a minimum of one hour’s outdoor activity per day. The report also indicated that one fifth of children do not play outdoors at all.

So, why are today’s children playing outside less and how can we encourage them to be more active? Infinite Playgrounds, specialists in the design and installation of wooden playgrounds are here to explore the reasons for the decline in outdoor play and discuss why this type of play is so important for childhood development.

Why have children stopped playing outside?

A survey conducted by Persil of 12,000 parents across the globe found that 64% of parents believe that they had greater opportunities to play outside than their own children now have. So, let’s examine the main causes:

 Sitting behind a screen:

Technology is, of course one of the main influencing factors when it comes to children spending more time indoors. Significant technological advancements over the last few decades have led to increasingly widespread use of mobile phones, tablets and gadgets. As a result of this, more children than ever now have easy access to a range of devices. In 2016, the average age for children to own their first mobile was seven. By eight years old they would typically own their first tablet and by ten they would own a smartphone.

One survey showed that 37% of children spend one or two hours per day using gadgets and devices, whilst 28% spend between two and three hours – considerably higher than the time that they spend playing outside. It is evident that our children’s love of gadgets is hindering outdoor activities.

No time for parents to supervise:

The same survey also showed that around 50% of parents do not have enough time to supervise their children outside. This lack of free time could mean that children are limited in how much they can actually play outdoors. Another survey by Families Online found that parents typically do not allow their child to play outside unsupervised until they are 10.5 years old.

It is normal for parents to have some concerns given the number of possible threat factors in society. However, when combined with time constraints, these concerns can restrict the type and amount of activities that children enjoy, which can ultimately harm their development.

Stress at school:

Children can also feel pressured around exam time, leading to anxiety and stress. Research shows that this can begin from as early as primary school. This indicates that children feel under pressure from a very young age to perform well in exams. This is down to a number of factors; it is thought that teachers feel a great deal of pressure for their students to do well in exams in order for the school to qualify for funding. Additionally, some parents can be very eager for their children to get as high a grade as possible in exams. This added pressure could potentially be a large contributing factor as to why children are more reluctant to play outdoors as they may be opting to stay at home to revise or complete homework.

How can we promote outdoor play?

Parents should still be cautious when their children ask to play outside, but stopping them from leaving the house at all isn’t the right way to solve the problem either. There are other options to explore if we want to encourage children to get out more. Parents could try taking their children out to an adventure playground or local park for the day.

It is also important to ensure that your children are aware of the rules of stranger danger and know what to do if they are approached by an unfamiliar person. Being aware that your child knows the dangers and knows how to act will give you comfort and peace of mind when they do play outdoors.

There should also be more time for unstructured activities. Many parents occupy their children’s time with activities such as after school clubs or sports. These are still important, however we should ensure that they aren’t taking up too much time in the schedule. Along with homework, children can have pretty full days and it is important that they still have some spare time to do what they want. During this free time, we should encourage children to be creative with their playtimes and try not to let them rely on gadgets and tech for entertainment.

When it comes to younger children, it’s important to take a step back and try to let them take the lead in coming up with activities and game ideas. This promotes imagination and also helps them to be more creative in the future. It could also be a good idea to introduce some toys that are less technology orientated, to steer them away from the tablets and screens for a while.