The Nation Trust’s campaign to allow children the freedom the play is something that resonates with much of the work we have done over the last few years. The ’50 things to do before you are 11 ¾’ campaign sums up beautifully the ability of a charitable organisation to promote behavioural change amongst children and families. Based on research carried out by the Trust, the campaign provides a checklist for under 12’s to get active and enjoy being outdoors. This is similar to the ‘Really Big Summer Adventure’ run by the Department of Health’s Change4Life campaign last summer which provided a range of simple activities (including bug hunting) to do throughout the summer holidays.
The National Trust’s research found that children spend less than a tenth of their time playing outdoors, but an average of 2 ½ hours a day watching television. Grandparents on the other hand recalled being outside for much of the day when they were children, and the Trust is hoping to encourage grandparents to teach children about the pleasure of being outside. A report by PlayEngland demonstrated that half of all children had been prevented from climbing trees, and 1 in 5 had been prevented from playing games of ‘tag’ or conkers. Author of the National Trust’s report ‘Natural Childhood’, Stephen Moss, calls on schools, councils and private institutions to create more play spaces as well as teach children about nature. Stephen Moss is also author of the excellent ‘The Bumper Book of Nature’ (Square Peg, 2009).
Our research for IKEA, The Play Report, revealed the extent to which parents were concerned about their children playing outside, unsupervised. It also showed that many parents feel too stressed to play with their children. Relearning the values held by previous generations when children were allowed more freedom, taking risks was part of growing up, and being outside was an important part of childhood, might be a difficult shift to make, but one that could benefit parents and children.