Hometime – another opportunity to play
I hear less and less kids today are walking home from school alone, good! What bore to walk when you can play and why do it alone when you have friends? We never walked home! We danced, jumped, skipped, hopped and ran home. Half past three wasn’t just hometime, it was playtime! So when children are supervised on their way home, parents may gain piece of mind but children are missing out on valuable independent play.
The discussion around what age a child should be before they are allowed to return home unsupervised continues, but we need to recognise that it’s not just about age but ability. Some children are very clued up and independent and some not as much so, but the more we step in and take away their freedom the more we hinder their development and enjoyment of childhood.
A new study has revealed that in the last four decades children’s independent mobility has decreased rapidly and now only 25 per cent of primary school children are allowed to leave school unsupervised, compared to a staggering 86 per cent in 1976! In most instances the dangers have not increased, so why have our fears? And how can we reverse this worrying trend and make sure today’s kids are not missing out on opportunities for fun and freedom, not to mention opportunities for development?
I grew up in London and walked home alone from eight years old; by nine I was also responsible for picking up my younger brother from nursery. Did I feel we were in danger? No, quite the opposite, we were among a sea of other children making their way home too. We would often accompany friends and one by one we would turn into our different streets. We would pass by playgrounds and play on the swings, splatter in puddles, jump over fences, pick flowers and embark on a whole load of mini adventures before reaching our front doors. These are my memories and fond ones at that, and the real danger is children today not experiencing these freedoms independently due to an irrational fear of what could be.
Hamdi Khalif is Communications and Campaigns Officer at Play England. To mark the launch of the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) research on independent mobility, Play England staff will be sharing their personal stories and thoughts on the subject throughout the week on this blog, we hope you enjoy them.