Parents too serious about fun and games

Parents who wrap their children in cotton wool and curb their sense of adventure risk turning them into adults who struggle to deal a challenge, a study has found.

Children tree climbing

Half of children have been stopped from climbing trees Photo: Andrew Crowley

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 By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent


Over-protective parents are denying their children the opportunity to take part in activities they took for granted as children.

Half of children have been stopped from climbing trees, 21 per cent are not allowed to play conkers and 17 per cent have been told not to play chase because it is too dangerous.

The traditional game of British bulldog, now banned in many playgrounds, is off-limits for 32 per cent of children.

Children's campaigners said a risk-averse society was in danger of bringing up children with no sense of adventure who were unable to manage their everyday lives.

Adrian Voce, director of Play England, which commissioned the survey, said that it was "not the end of the world if a child has an accident".

"Playing is an essential part of growing up and adventurous play that both challenges and excites children helps instill critical life skills," he added.

"Constantly wrapping children in cotton wool can leave them ill equipped to deal with stressful or challenging situations they might encounter later in life."

Parents believe children are more at risk now that they were 25 years ago and more at risk in public spaces than when at home, when in fact the opposite is true in both cases, according to research analysed by Play England, with three times as many children taken to hospital each year after falling out of bed than trees.

The ICM survey was commissioned to coincide with Play Day on Wednesday and surveyed 1000 children aged seven to 16 and over 1,000 adults.

Parents try to minimize the risks to children by taking them to playgrounds, keeping them at home, or allowing them to let off steam in the regulated environment of a theme park, the survey found.

Only 29 per cent of children said their most adventurous games were played outdoors among trees, rivers and woodland and 24 per cent said it took place in the streets or local area.

On the other hand 70 per cent of adults said they had their most adventurous games in outdoor natural space, 59 per cent said in parks and playgrounds and 45 per cent in the local streets.

"Children are not being allowed many of the freedoms that were taken for granted when we were children," Mr Voce said.

"They are not enjoying the opportunities to play outside that most people would have thought of as normal when they were growing up."

Although many have been stopped from playing "dangerous" games altogether, another 49 per cent aged seven to 12, are allowed to climb trees but only if an adult is present.

Another 42 per cent are not allowed in their local park on their own, 34 per cent cannot ride a bike to a friend's house alone and the same number are not allowed to play in the street without an adult present.

By contrast, 73 per cent are allowed to surf the internet without adult supervision.

Mr Voce said that adults were often too busy to watch over their children.

"That is very difficult for parents to manage because of the time pressures on normal family life," he said.

"If you don't want your children to play out alone and you have not got the time to take them out then they will spend more time on the computer."

Only 19 per cent of adults thought they were to blame for the situation, with 30 per cent blaming health and safety regulations and 80 per cent arguing children should be free to experience adventurous play even if it puts them at risk of minor injury.


49 per cent of children have been stopped from climbing trees because they’re too dangerous

66 per cent of children are not allowed to ride a bike to a friend’s house without an adult

73 per cent of children are allowed to surf the internet without an adult

43 per cent of boys find playing an electronic or computer game the most challenging and adventurous game they play

70 per cent of adults experienced their most adventurous and exciting games as children among rivers and woodland

29 per cent of children experienced their most adventurous and exciting games among rivers and woodland

77 per cent of children would like more opportunities to play adventurously and take risks while playing

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