Kids need 'risky' playtime, study finds
A major study in England found that kids aren't being encouraged to take enough risks in their play time. They even go so far as to make some suggestions:
"The research lists examples of risky play that should be encouraged including fire-building, den-making, watersports, paintballing, boxing and climbing trees."
While I think that encouraging uppercuts and hard jabs may be taking the principle too far, I do think that kids need to develop judgment from making the occasional dumb decision. Most of the life lessons I learned as a kid involved screwing up in some way.
My parents were perhaps a little too lax in this regard, however. I was allowed to play with firecrackers out my window, and my mom used to drive me around to put out garbage cans that my friends and I lit on fire. On the other hand, though, they were extremely nurturing and always made sure I ate my vegetables.
It is a scene that epitomises childhood: young siblings racing towards a heavy oak tree, hauling themselves on to the lower branches and scrambling up as high as they can get. Yet millions of children are being deprived of such pleasure because their parents are nervous about exposing them to any risks, new research has revealed.
A major study by Play England, part of the National Children's Bureau, found that half of all children have been stopped from climbing trees, 21 per cent have been banned from playing conkers and 17 per cent have been told they cannot take part in games of tag or chase. Some parents are going to such extreme lengths to protect their children from danger that they have even said no to hide-and-seek.
The tendency to wrap children in cotton wool has transformed how they experience childhood. According to the research, 70 per cent of adults had their biggest childhood adventures in outdoor spaces among trees, rivers and woods, compared with only 29 per cent of children today. The majority of young people questioned said that their biggest adventures took place in playgrounds.
Voce said Play England was determined to spread the message that children ought to be taking risks and that it is 'not the end of the world if a child has an accident'. The latest study will be launched on Wednesday to coincide with Play Day, when hundreds of events will take place across the country to celebrate children's right to play. It will show that play providers also feel the opportunities for children to 'test and challenge themselves in play involving a level of risk' have reduced over the past decade. They blame overcautious health and safety officers and the fear of litigation if children have accidents.
The Play England study quotes a number of play providers who highlight the benefits to children of taking risks. 'Risk-taking increases the resilience of children,' said one. 'It helps them make judgments,' said another. Some of those interviewed blamed the 'cotton wool' culture for the fact that today's children were playing it too safe, while others pointed to a lack of equipment or too much concrete in place of grass. The research also lists examples of risky play that should be encouraged including fire-building, den-making, watersports, paintballing, boxing and climbing trees.