General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Concerns as old-style fun and games taken out of childhood


The Irish News

For generations children have enjoyed playing conkers, pounding the pavements during hopscotch, skipping and climbing trees.

But new research has found that youngsters today are missing out on the rough and tumble of outdoor games enjoyed by their parents.

A study shows a major shift in the trend of childhood activities across Northern Ireland – with some treasured activities at risk of being lost forever.

The report has indicated that youngsters are in danger of losing out on developing important childhood skills that have a positive impact on their well-being and on their development.

The ability to explore new challenges, learn to manage risk and to cope with change are all learned from the games of outdoor play that previous generations grew up on.

Computer games, hand-held consoles and a wealth of choice of television are among the reasons cited for children staying behind closed doors because of the “ready made” entertainment at hand.

But the latest survery also suggests an over-protective culture is also to blame decline in traditional childhood games with over 70 per cent of parents saying children are missing out on outdoor experiences because of it.

The report commissioned by Fruit Shoot shows that the best loved childhood games are in danger of being consigned to history.

Almost 90 per cent of the mothers in Belfast who were surveyed skipped “often” compared to just 20 per cent of girls in the city today.

Boys in Belfast also have very different playing habits to their fathers – 93 per cent of dads questioned said they played conkers “often”, while only three per cent of boys in Belfast play the game today.

The ‘Big Mothered Britain’ report which surveyed more than 4,000 parents, also found that other childhood activities which have been continuing to disappear are hopscotch and tree-climbing.

The figures show that 33 per cent of children regularly play hopscotch today compared to 100 per cent of their parents.

Climbing trees appears to be popular with 44 per cent of today’s boys compared with 55 per cent of their fathers.

Almost all the parents surveyed believe that the culture of over-protecting children is detrimental to their development while two thirds feel that “ready-made” entertainment is restricting their children from developing social skills.

Child psychologist Emma Kenny yesterday said the findings “indicate that many treasured children’s activities are becoming rare”.

“But it’s the implications of this that are the cause for concern,” she said.

“Traditional children’s play activities such as hopscotch, climbing trees or playing tag provide learning experiences based on imagination.

“These all help kids develop key skills such as team playing, counting and creativity that are crucial to their future development.

“This ‘Big Mothered Britain’ mentality is in fact restricting opportunities for our children to learn and play freely.

“Ultimately, we’re seeing a gap emerge in today’s younger generation in the fun skills that we learn through a wide variety of physical and mental activities.

“This in turn, is not giving our kids the best opportunities for their future.”


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