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  • Writer's pictureWhy Sports

"Be home before it's dark"

The evolution of children's play over the past few decades is indeed a multifaceted topic, shaped by various societal shifts and cultural changes.

Thirty years ago, the instructions for children going out to play were relatively straightforward: don't talk to strangers, avoid dangerous areas like train tracks or construction sites and be home before dark. This simplicity stemmed from a different understanding of safety and a more relaxed approach to parenting.

However, several factors have contributed to the transformation of children's play and the increased restrictions placed upon it. One significant factor is the rise of technology and digital devices, which have altered the way children interact with their environment. With the allure of screens and virtual worlds, outdoor play has often taken a backseat, leading to decreased physical activity and less time spent in nature.

Additionally, concerns about safety and risk have heightened in society. Parents and caregivers, influenced by media coverage of accidents and crimes, may be more inclined to impose restrictions on their children's play to keep them safe. This fear-driven approach, while well-intentioned, can inadvertently stifle children's independence, engagement, creativity and resilience.

Moreover, the changing landscape of our neighbourhoods and communities has also played a role. Urbanisation, increased traffic and a decrease in public spaces designated for play have limited opportunities for spontaneous outdoor activities. As a result, structured and supervised play has become more prevalent, further constraining children's freedom to explore and discover the world around them.

The consequences of these shifts are significant. Research suggests that unrestricted, unstructured play is essential for children's physical, cognitive and emotional development. It fosters creativity, problem-solving skills and social interaction, while also promoting physical health and well-being. By limiting children's free play, we risk depriving them of these crucial benefits and hindering their overall growth and resilience.

As a nation, it's essential to strike a balance between ensuring children's safety and allowing them the freedom to play and explore independently. 

This requires a collective effort from parents, communities, policymakers, and educators to create environments that prioritise play, provide safe spaces for outdoor activities and encourage a culture of risk-taking and resilience. By doing so, we can help promote the mental and physical health and well-being of future generations.

Join us at the Active Kids, Healthy Futures: Unlocking the Power of Play in Urban Design where we will delve into the crucial topic of children's play and its impact on their well-being. -


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