Child's play not easy for modern parents, say experts

Mother and child playing A survey suggests many parents have lost the art of playing with their children

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UK parents are suffering a crisis of confidence when it comes to playing with their children, suggests a survey.

Almost half of 2,000 parents questioned said they would welcome expert help on how to play.

Some 13% felt anxious about play, while 17% admitted buying toys and video games for their children to take the pressure off themselves, it revealed.

Play campaigner Adrian Voce called on the government to develop a national play strategy.

Researchers for the drinks brand Ribena questioned 2,000 parents of children aged from three to 15 across the UK for its Ribena Plus Play Report.

The figures showed that 59% of fathers and 42% of mothers were so busy that they had fewer than five hours a week to play with their children.

'Lose the ironing'

National Trust play musts

Climb a tree

Roll down a really big hill

Camp out in the wild

Build a den

Skim a stone

Run around in the rain

Fly a kite

Catch a fish with a net

Eat an apple straight from a tree

Play conkers

Throw some snow

Hunt for treasure on the beach

Make a mud pie

Dam a stream

Go sledging

Bury someone in the sand

Set up a snail race

Balance on a fallen tree

Swing on a rope swing

Make a mud slide

Eat blackberries growing in the wild

Take a look inside a tree

Visit an island

Feel like you're flying in the wind

Make a grass trumpet

Hunt for fossils and bones

Watch the sun wake up

Climb a huge hill

Get behind a waterfall

Feed a bird from your hand

Hunt for bugs

Find some frogspawn

Catch a butterfly in a net

Track wild animals

Discover what's in a pond

Call an owl

Check out animals in a rock pool

Bring up a butterfly

Catch a crab

Go on a nature walk at night

Plant it, grow it, eat it

Go wild swimming

Go rafting

Light a fire without matches

Find your way with map and compass

Try bouldering

Cook on a campfire

Try abseiling

Find a geocache

Canoe down a river

Just under a third of parents said they felt guilty for playing with their children instead of doing housework.

Mr Voce told BBC News: "Society has got its values back to front if parents feel guilty for playing with their children instead of doing chores.

"Playing with your kids is just as important as any aspect of looking after the home."

His advice to parents was is: "Don't be so anxious. Lose the ironing for half a day.

"Play is one of the most simple and basic activities. If it feels good and the child enjoys it, then that's the way to do it."

Ribena's play tips include making musical instruments from tin cans, going on a nature trail in the local park and building a dressing-up wardrobe from old boxes and pillow cases.

Daisy Mulligan, mother of two daughters aged three years and six months, said: "The tips show how to use things that are all around you that are not specified as toys.

"At Christmas Molly played with the boxes the gifts came in. It really set her imagination on fire and we just lived with the mess."

The survey also suggests computers and video games have taken over from more traditional forms of play.

Outdoor play

Only around a third of children played with household objects, like pots and pans, and a similar number regularly climbed trees.

By contrast 90% of children watched DVDs and 70% played video games.

The survey coincides with a campaign by the National Trust to encourage more outdoor play.

The charity's "50 things to do before you're 11¾" campaign includes climbing a tree and building a den.

The trust has recruited experts in these skills from among its staff to encourage families to have a try while visiting National Trust properties.

Mr Voce agreed that more children should play outside, but he said traffic and crime had effectively excluded children from many public spaces.

He called on national and local government to develop safe outdoor spaces where children could play and explore near their own homes.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Of course we don’t all live in houses with large gardens, trees and streams. This means that children must find other play areas, usually in the community. Unfortunately when this happens they are seen as thugs and yobs. It is very difficult to climb trees, fly kites, make dens and skim stones in the local shopping precinct.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Having just enjoyed a pleasant couple of weeks off with my kids can I make this observation;
    What's this obsession modern day parents have of believing their kids must be entertained ever second of the day & their every waking moment carefully micro-managed?
    Whatever happened to letting kids be kids, letting them play with their mates, make dens themselves, have fun & use their own imaginations?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    My sports group used to run camps for the kids. We did activities like treasure hunts, assault courses, water fights etc. I went when I was a kid and then helped out as an adult. We had to stop them a few years ago as we needed to ensure that there was sufficient adults to every X no. of kids, all adults needed to be checked out, proper insurance was required.... We just couldn't do it anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    If you dont play with your children, then you are failing your childs needs. No excuse, as a parent of 3, I play daily with mine. Its not difficult, you just have to prioritise your children above your social life.

    You dont need the states help telling you what to do, you need to change your priorities and put your children first, as they will choose your care home !

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    What was once simple has been made complicated. If you leave kids alone to get on with it, they will play. It is in their nature. You can't impose


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