While an overwhelming majority of parents (87%) think that play is an important part of their children’s lives, they are worried that social factors are limiting their children’s play opportunities, according to a survey commissioned by Toy Industries of Europe (TIE). Factors such as changes in the school system, inadequate play spaces, increasing homework, intolerant attitudes to children playing in public spaces as well as concerns about accidents, strangers and traffic are preventing children across Europe from fully benefiting from play.
Concerns about traffic (40%) and strangers (36%) appear high on parents’ list of reasons for not allowing their children to play outdoors. Over one quarter of parents (28%) admitted to limiting their children’s play because of concerns about accidents and injuries. One third of parents (36%) say that their children cannot play outdoors due to the lack of play facilities near their house. A similar amount of parents (32%) feel that the general public has a negative attitude to children using public places to play.
The majority of parents think that play helps with learning (66%) and school performance (44%). However, with the increasing focus on academic performance in many European education systems, it is hardly surprising that 19% of parents and 25% of children say that their (children’s) school does not encourage play. This is particularly worrying given that the majority of parents believe that play helps their children’s creativity (75%) and that there is a positive difference in their children’s behaviour when they have had time to play (76%). Play outside school hours is also affected by the increased focus on academic achievements with half of all children (49%) saying that they do not have enough free time for play because they have too much homework.
In addition, two thirds of parents (62%) think that play benefits their children’s health and nearly half (48%) say that play helps children to maintain a healthy weight. Given the rising trend in overweight and obese children in Europe, the importance of play in keeping children active should not be overlooked.
The survey also shows that increased public understanding and awareness of the importance of play is needed, with two thirds of parents (60%) saying that adults are inclined to undervalue play.
Catherine Van Reeth, Director General of TIE, said: ‘Play has an essential role in children’s development, health, learning and happiness; we cannot afford to underestimate it. All of us, from parents to policy makers, have a part to play in supporting children’s play and investing in Europe’s future.’
Click here to watch some of the children and parents who participated in the survey speak about the importance of play.
About the survey
The survey was carried out among parents and children aged 4- 12 years old in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK in mid-2014.