Playing in the outdoors was something members of older generations took for granted when they were children. In more recent years there has been a foreclosure on what was once unregulated freedom. Safety and security issues have raised concerns about the wisdom of young people being allowed ‘old fashioned’ freedoms of play.

The upshot, is that many young people prefer to sit and play games on screens, rather than being in the outdoors letting off steam in a running, playing manner. There are hundreds of pieces of research that have been done, all pointing toward the fact that a lack of physical action and activity is depriving children of an energy outlet in play.

It is true that many children are now playing less than used to be the case. There are of course, a growing number of play centres in cities that attract young people, but they are often at distance from where people live. It also costs a lot to patronise these centres, meaning they are beyond the means of many families.

From time to time, walking or bike riding to school are promoted as one off family days. Children walk or ride with parents or others to school. Normally the majority are dropped off and picked up by parents and carers. Even on these special walk and ride days, most children (and many bikes) are collected after school.

School and public playgrounds used to be fun places for children. However, they have been impacted by occupational health and safety (OH&S) requirements that have taken many of the fun elements out of playgrounds. Roller slides used to be powerful drawcards for children but after an accident or two, OH&S decreed that rollers had to go and be replaced by a flat plastic or metal sheet down which children slid. Fun evaporated. ‘Stranger Danger’ awareness and the possibility of needle stick injuries have also discouraged parents from allowing children access to public playgrounds without supervision.

More and more families are living in high rise apartments. Limited playing space naturally encourages sedentary activity.

For whatever reason, physical activity and letting off steam in play situations seems to be diminishing. This is an unfortunate trend and not one helpful to the development of young people. It makes play opportunities at school all the more important.

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