Children’s Mental Health Harmed By Lack of Play

November 29, 2013 3:48 pm

children playing outdoors

Studies show that there’s a clear link between outdoor games and body confidence. According to Dr Papadopoulos, one-quarter of seven year-old girls have tried to lose weight and one-third of eight to twelve year-old boys are dieting. Physical activity has been shown to boost emotional fortitude and self-esteem. But 28% of UK parents fear being judged by neighbours, if they allow their children to play outside.

Childless Streets and Parks

Critics also point to parental anxiety. In the wake of the Jimmy Savile (et al) scandals, a culture of fear has been created, and no community feels safe; especially when there’s so much traffic on the roads.

Unstructured, loosely supervised play is largely a thing of the past, but parents and their parents thrived off these outdoor pursuits, when a child playing outside was the norm – in fact, it was actively encouraged (or enforced) by parents.

Having Fun

children x box

Even if your children aren’t sporty, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun outdoors, whether that’s looking around a National Trust property or going on a treasure hunt. Keep it fun.

53% of young children say they would like to play outside more. And research shows that adults admit that parents forge better relationships with other families and the community, if they encourage young people to play outside.

60% of parents said they would be happy to let their children play outdoors, if other parents were doing the same. Play is important for development and childhood enjoyment. When children don’t regularly play outside, their well-being is affected.

In fact, British children are ranked as one of the unhappiest groups in the developed world. With the aggressive marketing of commercialised toys and the ready-available access to television or video games, children are forgoing outdoor play for more sedentary lifestyles. And it’s no wonder that childhood obesity has sky-rocketed over the years. Children should be getting at least one hour of moderate exercise a day.

children mental health

Outdoor play also helps children make friends and develop crucial skills, such as teamwork, imagination, and resourcefulness. By all means, everything in moderation – let them watch TV or play video games – but only after they’ve gone outside to play. And for that extra implement of safety, there are numerous multi use games areas built around the country to help with safer playing conditions.

Naturally introverted children can benefit from practical activities, such as gardening or nature walks. Help your kids come up with interesting play ideas, if they are stuck. By introducing them to a sport or activity, you may spark a life-long love.

Not many heart-felt, nostalgic memories arise from sitting in front of an Xbox.

So, get in touch with your community and get children back outside playing together. If the facilities are lacking in your town or city, then make it work by campaigning for greener spaces and holding play dates in parents’ back gardens. However, there should be a green space near you, whether that’s nearby countryside or the local park. Talk to other parents and see which outdoor activities you can organise.

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