Fear of intolerance 'stops children playing out'

girl playing out Many parents feared being judged by neighbours if they let their children play unsupervised outdoors

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Fear of upsetting the neighbours is preventing many parents letting their children play out, a survey suggests.

More than a quarter (28%) of 1,000 UK parents questioned feared being judged by neighbours if they let their children play unsupervised outdoors.

Almost a third (32%) believed allowing their children to play ball games or make noise outdoors would cause problems with other residents.

The poll was released to mark Playday 2013, an annual campaign for play.

One Poll surveyed 1,000 children between five and 16 years old and 1,000 parents with children the same age.


Of the five-11-year-olds, 53% said they would like to play outside more, while 40% said they could do so as much as they liked.

Of all the children, 13% said adults where they lived tended to disapprove of them playing outside, while 10% said adults thought they were up to no good when they were with friends.

Of the adults, 53% thought traffic was a barrier to children playing out where they lived, 40% cited "stranger danger" as a concern and 28% said intolerant neighbours were a problem.

How much play is enough?

boy with scooter
  • Health professionals recommend children get at least one hour of aerobic activity a day
  • This should include a mix of moderate-intensity activities, where a child raises their heart rate and breaks into a sweat, and vigorous-intensity activities, where they are breathing hard and fast
  • As part of a child's 60 or more minutes, they should also do activities that strengthen their muscles and bones

Source: NHS Choices

A quarter of the adults felt a more friendly community and better relationships with neighbours would encourage young people to play outside more often.

A lack of dedicated community space was also cited as hampering children's opportunities to play, with 32% of the adults and a fifth of the children saying more spaces to play within their local community would get more children playing out.

The research suggests play has the power to bring communities together, with 40% of adults saying children playing out where they lived improved community spirit, and 45% saying it helped families get to know each other.

And 60% of parents said they would feel confident letting their children play in the street if others were playing out too.

Space and freedom

Cath Prisk, director of Play England, said: "It's up to all of us to turn around the creeping disappearance of children from our streets, parks and communities. We all have role - as families, neighbours, and friends.

"We can all do something to say we love kids playing outdoors, that we want to live in communities that actively welcome kids playing out.

"There always was and always will be some people who want to squash kids' fun - but there are far more that really want kids back outside playing, not stuck indoors, especially over the summer holidays."

Start Quote

Consensus is spreading - play, especially playing outdoors, makes sense”

End Quote Jacqueline O'Loughlin Play Board Northern Ireland

Jacqueline O'Loughlin, chief executive of Play Board Northern Ireland, said: "Consensus is spreading - play, especially playing outdoors, makes sense. It makes sense for families, society and the economy. Play is fundamental to our children's enjoyment of their childhood, it can't be taken for granted.

"All of us, from parents to planners, from neighbours to policy makers have our part to play in allowing and supporting children's play as it is vital for our children's health, learning, development and happiness."

Mike Greenaway, director of Play Wales, said: "We need to recognise the importance of providing children with time, space and freedom to play in their own way.

"We need to support them and recognise that for their health, wellbeing and long-term development children need playful places and opportunities to play outside."

Marguerite Hunter Blair, chief executive of Play Scotland, said: "As well as a celebration of children's right to play, Playday is a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children's lives.

"We know that children across the UK would like to play outdoors more than they already do, with more opportunities for a wide range of play opportunities wanted."

Playday - held annually on the first Wednesday in August - is run by Play England, Play Board Northern Ireland, Play Wales and Play Scotland and aims to raise awareness of children's right to play and the importance of play for their health, wellbeing and happiness.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    A young boy was caught taking flowers from my garden after he jumped my fence, when I asked him about it he said he didn't do it. A group of his friends came up & eventually admitted that he did do it, these children also thought that the berries from the flowers were blackberries, I told them that they were flower seeds & that those & the flowers were poisonous, they don't take them anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    Commenting here because there is no HYS item on the Scotland part of the "British" Broadcasting Corporation's website

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    I have no problem with kids playing outside, there is a small play area near where I live, I can see & hear the kids playing, however, when they come into your garden & nick things that's another thing. The problem especially holidays, is they get bored, each day the same, they will get up to mischief, even the best brought up kid will get into mischief. One's that vandalise that's different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    569(continued) we were taught these games by the older children who needed extra players.

    Todays children don't have anyone teaching them co-operative play & young children do need and want that help.

    In re to swearing - on group of boys apologized to my mom after they Learned The Meaning of the Words that they had copied from their dad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    Children who don't go to the same school may not be playing games - in may actually be mini-gang assaults. As the games played in my childhood where dodge ball, baseball, soccer baseball (baseball diamond-pitcher rolls the ball toward person at the plate who tries to kick fair. etc), and various board games. No tag or hide and seek - so no screaming and yelling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    In re to people defending children scratching cars: Particular street always had a street hockey game going on - far enough down from where I parked when visiting so i didn't have to worry but they did scratch some cars. When one of the teen players retired and purchased HIS FIRST NEW CAR he called the police to put an end to the game as it was actually against the town bylaws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    566 jig
    Sounds wonderful!
    But obviously 99% of children don't have a few acres to play in away from other people who may find what they're doing irritating so there's a lot less chance of anyone being effected,and you all had to go to bed at a set time as well,so no midnight and early morning noise outside etc
    Also due to it being a boarding school all the adults and childreen were known to all

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    Oh for the good old days. At a private boarding school we were expected to play outside in all weathers. In the summer we played in the fields, built tree houses in the woods and swam in the lake. Conker fights were almost obligatory in the autumn. Winter saw us skating either on the tarns or the school carpark flooded to make a rink. Spring was time to work on our gardens. We were fit and heathy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    I think as adults we forget how much noise and nuisance we made as kids playing outside. We must let kids express themselves outside, as long as they're not damaging property. Apart from more traffic, I can't think of any other reason why we shouldn't the kids run about outside, even out of sight- stranger danger is no worse these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    Some people manage to get their children to behave even when they're out of sight and some people don't. Sometimes it comes down to 'good parenting' but I'm never quite sure how much we 'hard wire' our kids in those formative years and sometimes we inadvertently make mistakes that may come back to haunt us. The problem is we can all judge and generalise from the extremes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    Half of the problem, if not more, is that adults today appear to have no self-discipline, which children would learn from. Many UK adults are extremely selfish and arrogant, hysterically over-protective and seemingly incapable of rational thought. The sensationalist media has a lot to answer for, as does the last Labour government who wanted to control just about everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    Unfortunately where we live there is a lot of antisocial behaviour from teenagers and people dealing drugs. Because my family and I are clean living people (don't smoke, drink or take drugs) and have had to call the police to deal with nuisance neighbours a few times, this has lead us to being targeted for abuse. We've had our property damaged and cannot allow our children to play outside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    "Fear of Intolerance". M goodness, do you mean parental cowardise? I mean on what basis should neighbours be intolerant towards children doing what children should do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    325. YeOldHammer
    @128 would a "sponge ball" be acceptable ? my friends and i would play football with a sponge ball in the middle of our road which had cars lined all the way up the road since it was all terrace houses, no damage done.

    I did suggest a sponge ball to another group of older players, the response was to key my car

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    There's playing out - an essential part of childhood and then there's the poor parenting equivalent of putting the cat out for the day and letting everyone else raise their children for them. Comes down to respect for others, which of course is increasingly rare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    We dont have a garden. We are surrounded by fields and communal green .My son is autistic and is on his own alot. He used to play out with supervision but now he plays out on his own . He knows where he can and cant go .Being able to explore and invent games outside in the fresh air has fuelled his imagination . He's had a good time if hes got mucky with cuts and scrapes. A smile on his face !

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    Stop moaning Britain - just because you're good at something, doesn't mean you should do it!!
    I remember as a child always being told off for playing in the street (not harming anyone we thought). Kids need to be encouraged to play outside together. Local council's should be providing space - might reduce obesity amongst other problems in this country!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    Yes, it's lovely to see children playing out especially when it's little girls playing hopscotch or little boys scooting along like the pictures show. It's not very nice when they kick rugby balls or footballs as high and hard as possible in the street, to land on anyone's parked car or to ride their bikes and scratch cars as they go by and all the other anti social 'games' many of them 'play'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    553. BevRoadNorth 'shouting theyre untouchable-the local PCSOs seem to agree'

    But they're not. If they are under 11 (age of criminal responsibility) the authorities still have Local Child Curfews (ban children from being in a public place between 9pm and 6am). Break that and it's a Child Safety Order. Break that and it can mean being taken into care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    I worry about parents who let small children roam free on pavements, in shops and other public buildings, then yell & slap them when they wander off & start trashing the place, or step into traffic. Then the children start screaming back... why all the fury? It's predictable. Control them till they learn self control.

    It's like they can't foresee harm & damage to their child or anyone else.


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