The decline of outdoor play

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One of the things I loved the most when I was a child was playing outside. I grew up in a little village, and right behind my Dad’s house were several fields – two of which belonged to my Grandma. I spent hours playing down there, walking our dog, climbing trees, building dens… getting dirty and having fun. While my children don’t have fields right behind our house, we do spend a lot of time outside. Be it in the garden, on the playing fields near us or long walks to the river. I’d much rather them be outside exploring and getting dirty than sat in the house on a screen.

So I was really shocked this week to read research from Sudocrem, which showed that out of a survey of 2,000 parents, found 62% think parents are more over-protective than previous generations. The number of children who play outdoors has been steadily declining over the last four decades. Today, children spend less than 5 hours a week playing outdoors compared with 11 hours a week for their parent’s generation. In comparison, they spend at least 6.5 hours in front of a screen!

The research from Sudocrem explored the reasons parents attribute their children not playing outdoors. 57% of parents believe it was safer to play outside when they were younger and 35% believe it was less of an issue for a child to be injured after playing outdoors when they were young than there is now. Children do get hurt … mine often have bumps or bruises, a scraped knee or stings. But I don’t see that as a reason to wrap them in cotton wool and keep them indoors. Children thrive on fresh air and outdoor play – we really do think it’s essential, and why we ensure our kids play out a lot – even on rainy days! The odd bump or cut is part and parcel of childhood, and is soon forgetten with a cuddle and a spot of Sudcrem.

Play More, a national campaign is reiterating the importance of outdoor play in pre-schoolers and supported by Sudocrem is set to reverest teh trend and get children playing outdoors more. They are offering the chance for 10 nurseries across the country to win either £500 to renovate their outdoor play area or £500 worth of Play More toy equipment.

One nursery that has supported outdoor play since the early 20th century times is Rachel McMillan Nursery School in Greenwich, London. Established over 100 years ago, it was the country’s first ‘open air’ nursery. This ethos continues today, no matter the weather.

“We’ve known for more than a century that letting children learn through playing outdoors feeds their imaginations and stimulates mental and physical development”, says Theresa Lane, Headteacher of Rachel McMillan Nursery School, consistently rated Outstanding by Ofted, “I’m happy to support any campaign that encourages children to spend more time outside exploring and understanding their environment, whether that’s a city centre or a muddy field.”

If you think your child’s nursery* could do with improving their outdoor facilities, go to and nominate.

post in association with Sudocrem

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