Out of sight – not out of mind
Guest post – Ashley Rogers, Play England, coordinator for the Play Safety Forum
Playing outside might be dangerous – it sometimes seems crime and anti-social behaviour is rife and around every corner. All the more reason then to keep children indoors and safely out of harms way…
Besides what life lessons will be learnt from climbing a tree and experiencing that terrifying moment when you are not entirely sure you can get down again? What good can it be to anyone to build your first ever fire in the woods and dance crazily around it singing ‘I’m a fire-starter!’? What could you possibly enjoy about taking a ginormous run up and launching yourself head first into and across a muddy puddle down the park in the sheeting rain?
Yes, children are the most precious beings in our world. Yes, they might get into to more dangerous situations if they are out of the eyes of adults and allowed to wander past the end of their gardens. Yes, parents will worry. But, consider this…the world is not actually a more dangerous place than it was 30 years ago when you or your parents were playing out. The Home Office statistics that show this are documented in Tim Gill’s book, ‘No Fear – Growing up in a risk averse society’.
In many cases, it is our perception – and awareness – of certain dangers that has changed. And we worry about what neighbours will think if we let our children play out in the street, about being seen as an irresponsible parent for letting them go out alone. And maybe we forget what it felt like and what we learned from exploring the outside world when we were kids.
So, what can we do to help kids roam freely and – importantly – safely?
- Make sure your kids know how to handle traffic in your area – and their bicycle. And do this before they go to secondary school!
- Petition your council to reduce speed limits (we totally support our friends over at Sustrans and urge you to sign up to their Free Range Kids campaign too!)
- Gradually increase time children are allowed out without contacting you – you will both find it reassuring
- Let your children bring a friend when you go out as a family – if their friends have been out with you before, you’ll know the ones you trust to be out with your kids without you
- Think about getting together with neighbours to close your street for play after school or at the weekend – see our friends over at Playing Out or at London Play for advice
- Remember what you did as a child or young person and talk about it with your kids (within reason!)
- (possibly controversial this one!) You could give kids (cheap!) mobile phones – if you know they are at the end of a phone line you might worry less. Though do be warned as they get older they will turn them off…
- Support the Love Outdoor Play campaign: Put a sticker in your window to show you support outdoor play where you live, tell everyone you know about the campaign and get them involved, and share your experiences and concerns here on this blog.