Friday, August 04, 2006

Antisocial Hopscotch

Nice comment piece from Adrian Voce, director of the Children's Play Council, about the latest 'Playday' survey. This shows that, rather than being wilfully obese couch-potatoes, 86% of children prefer outdoor activities.

Yet it seems that most children do spend more time inside than their parents did at the same age. Research suggests that in 20 years the "home habitat" of a typical eight-year-old - the area that a child can travel around on their own - has shrunk by nearly 90%. A Home Office survey last year revealed that as many as 33% of eight to 10-year-olds never play out without an adult being present.

When they do venture out, children are increasingly ferried around in their parents' cars for journeys that used to be made on foot. The prime minister last week, speaking about the obesity crisis, noted that the numbers of children walking to school declined from 61% to 53% between 1994 and 2004. Such data is often seen as a proxy indicator for the extent of children's outdoor play, and the statistics for younger children are even starker, with only an estimated 5% of seven to eight year-olds now walking unaccompanied to school, compared to 80% in 1990.

So, if children tell us they want to play outside as much as they ever did but the reverse is actually the case, what's stopping them?

Well, probably traffic and a smattering of the severely over-hyped 'stranger danger', and then there's the Government's antisocial rhetoric that has served to vindicate the sheer curmudgeonry of some people - as we've mentioned before.

The latest example of this is absolutely breathtaking:
A group of youngsters has fallen foul of the law for playing hopscotch. West Midlands Police community support officers asked parents in Spring Street in Halesowen to remove chalk markings after complaints about them.


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