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 493.

    @490. Chris L

    Respect and dignity has to be earned, it's not given as of right. I don't consider some foul mouthed brat playing football in the street to be worthy of either!

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    I work for a police force within the UK. I'm always amazed by the amount of calls we get during the summer holidays from members of the public regarding "nuisance youths". The majority of the time, these are just young children playing with friends and not actually causing a problems at all. I do feel sympathetic towards youths these days and I wish there was more of a community cohesion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    I've never understood the theory that children no longer play outdoors. There are loads of children in this area who play outside in the street, all day every day - they are all ages and play happily together whenever they get the opportunity. They are nice kids and chat to people passing - it's great to see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.


    Yet, I am yet to encounter a scenario where children have sickened me to the point of grumpiness like you lot.

    Maybe you should start treating them with a little respect and dignity and you may get some in return.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    Of all crimes against children abduction and attempted abduction accounts for only 8% of those crimes. A far greater danger to children is neglect and cruelty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    @483 Disaffected Young Man

    "all they do is be rude, antisocial and leave mess everywhere."

    Exactly the same as children then!

  • Comment number 487.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    How come there are so many kids needing to play outside? Surely most of them are engaged in other activities supervised by the army of child-carers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    421. anotherfakename

    ' But simpler would be to have some policemen actually walking around our villages, towns and cities'

    A common viewpoint, presumably by people who can't do maths. Try to work out how many streets there are in all the villages , towns and cities you mention and then work out how many police would be needed if they were to be seen in every street more than once a decade!

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    When kids play out adults need to know where they are & what they are doing. If they misbehave - scream, rather than talk, or run through someone else's garden, the adults need to the deal with it.
    The problem I have is that my neighbours don't deal with it, so I have to.
    I was taught to play and not misbehave outside, & I expect today's parents to do the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    Why don't we just make kids ILLEGAL ban them and round the rest up into far away camps out of sight. Hell while we are at it round up anyone over 50 and under 30 leaving the only people that matter grown adults. Honestly I love children don't have any of my own. What I dislike are older people and people with pets all they do is be rude, antisocial and leave mess everywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    It's a shame that they don't have Child Free communities, that way everyone would have a choice. Personally I think if you want kids or pets you should have a garden.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    @480 Chris L

    The trouble is the utopia you proclaim doesn't exist!

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    Grumps, grumps and more grumps!

    We share the world with children and with good, sound and stable parenting they can play outside with care and consideration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    I reckon it must be awful to be a child in the UK .

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    I'm lucky to have a large garden for the grandchildren to play in. They have trees to climb, can make dens, and generally get themselves dirty and tired. Unfortunately, their parents don't want them climbing trees in case they get hurt. They don't want them making dens in case they get dirty. It's all I can do to keep quiet. Fortunately, when the parents are away the kids can be kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    Observe,communicate,consideration,plan,flexibility,understanding,care,this will all minimize stress for all and help everyone to peacefully coexist within their environments to the maximum whats possible,never stop talking to your neighbours or begin talking if you havn't started,there will always be exceptions but most people wish to avoid confrontation and causing others to be upset if possible!

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    I have a solution to the child problem.Tag all children under the age of 18.

    If there are problems, police can track down the culprit. If a parent wants to see where their child is, just check on the phone app.

    There are quite simply no arguments against this, its a win win!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    Streets, parking lots, and town sidewalks and unblocked driveways are no longer safe places for unsupervised children to play - particularly those who are too young to understand traffic safety. The US government thinks that placing multiple cameras in a car will end the problem of children killed in backup accidents instead of the cheaper Sesame street teaching why you need a big person with you

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    @457 anotherfakename

    Your very lucky then! Either that or drive an old jalopy and don't care about the scratches! I however drive a £40000 Audi and object to having footballs bounced off it!

    Like I said, let the dreadful little urchins play in the park if they must kick balls around. The pavement is for pedestrians not bikes and the road is for cars!


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