The Decline of Outdoor Play

Our three boys love being outside. I’m regularly having to run into the garden, and drag Benjamin in at 7am, when he’s escaped through the cat flap into the garden whilst stark naked. They are all at their happiest when they are out in the garden, getting some fresh air and burning off some energy. On days like today, when it has just been raining too hard for them to play outside, they are miserable and moping about by the patio door. At the very first break in the rain, they’ll be outside, with their wellies and raincoats on.

The decline of outdoor play |

I was really shocked to read some research last week from Sudocrem, which showed that in a survey of 2000 parents, 62% believe that parents of this generation are more overprotective than those previously. Over the past four decades, the amount of time that children spend playing outdoors has declined drastically. Children of today typically spend less than five hours a week (45 minutes a day!) playing outside, compared to the 11 hours per week for their parent’s generation. Even more shocking is the fact that they are spending around 6.5 hours a day in front of a screen. It’s no wonder that childhood obesity rates have been increasing!

The decline of outdoor play |

I’m far from an outdoorsy type person, but some of my favourite childhood memories stem from being outside. It might have been playing in the back garden, or in our little cul-de-sac on our bikes, having water fights with the neighbour’s kids or kicking a ball around, or even just going to the local park. I really hope that when Harrison, Alex and Benjamin are older, they remember the days we spent going for a walk, playing and exploring in the forest, going to the seaside or even just chasing each other around in the back garden. They usually come in just before bedtime, absolutely filthy and their legs bruised and scraped – nothing that an ‘oh dear’, a magic kiss and a plaster can’t sort out. Children getting injured was cited by 35% of parents as a reason for not letting children playing outside. They believe that it was much less of an issue for a child to hurt themselves whilst playing outdoors when they were young than it is now. I don’t really understand that reasoning to be honest – children will bump themselves, it’s a fact of life!


57% of adults also believe that it was safer to play outdoors when they were younger. I can see this to an extent – my kids probably won’t play out the front on their bikes in the way we used to as kids. That doesn’t stop them from going out in the back garden if you have one, or playing in the park or the woods supervised. I live in the middle of Birmingham and can get to a wood in about 45 minutes in a car, and pretty much everyone has a park within walking distance.

The decline of outdoor play |

Play More is a new campaign which is supported by Sudocrem in an aim to get people to recognise the importance of outdoor play for preschool children. They’re offering the chance for ten nurseries across the country to win either £500 to renovate their outdoor play area, or £500 of Play More equipment.

One nursery that has supported outdoor play since the early 20th century times is Rachel McMillan Nursery School in Greenwich, London. Established over 100 years ago, it was the country’s first ‘open air’ nursery. This ethos continues today, no matter the weather.

“We’ve known for more than a century that letting children learn through playing outdoors feeds their imaginations and stimulates mental and physical development”, says Theresa Lane, Headteacher of Rachel McMillan Nursery School, consistently rated Outstanding by Ofted, “I’m happy to support any campaign that encourages children to spend more time outside exploring and understanding their environment, whether that’s a city centre or a muddy field.”

*Collaborative post 

31 thoughts on “The Decline of Outdoor Play

  1. Oh my word these statistics are shocking. I understand why parents are more protective now, but actually I don’t think the world is a less safe place, I just think that the media have made us more aware of what’s going on. My children aren’t old enough to be out of my sight yet but they spend a lot of time outside with me. And 6.5 hours screen time a day is insane, it makes me think that games like Pokemon GO are really beneficial to children if it’s the only way they’ll go outside.

  2. I agree children are not out as much as they use to be. I think it is sad as they only way they learn to cross roads, or play safely is to learn risk awareness. Yes mine fell off bikes or roundabouts, have also broken bones on bouncy castles and walking down the street in a normal fashion, but I refuse to wrap them in cotton wool. They played in woods and went off to the park and none of them had a mobile phone with them.
    I truly believe parents are too over protective and statistically no more children are injured or worse today than one, two, or three generations ago. I think a lot of it has to do with society in general. When my children were young nearly everybody knew everybody and other peoples children would come into our house for a pee, or you would mass feed children jam sandwiches, or make up huge jugs of juice, everybody looked out for everybody elses children and had no qualms about giving somebody elses child a ticking off or a hug and a plaster. Nowadays people are to scared to do these sorts of things and I truly believe children are missing out on the development of basic life skills by being isolated.
    Good for you for getting the boys out when ever you can. Laughed at your son climbing through the cat flap, my youngest could be found in the garden before breakfast many days in all weathers.

  3. Outdoors play has it’s risks but as long as they’re in a safe enviroment I think it’s pretty healthy. I don’t think the world is neccessarily “more dangerous” now, it’s just that the media is making us aware of everything all the time now

  4. Whenever my kids are playing outside, I am there beside them too. I make sure that they are always safe and I keep my eyes on them.

  5. I have to admit that the stats are not that shocking, unfortunately these days kids seem to be inside using technology instead of being outside which is a shame. We love being out in the garden and we should all have less screen time, me included! x

  6. I’m not surprised about this at all. With all the gadgets coming out, the kids do not like playing outside either. There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing a child’s safety although it would be nice to be able to play outside especially during the summer!

  7. I totally agree that too much indoor time seems to be the wave of the moment. My best memories of childhood are also in the outdoors. Encouraging our kids to enjoy that is important.

  8. My sister in law daughter – my niece refuse to have the TV on and will often take her outside (providing the weather is nice) to play. Whether it to the swings or outside blowing bubbles. She (my niece) love it and is a real outdoor girl, she keep collecting slugs and snails…much to the dismay of her mum!

  9. I agree completely with you!! But I also remember all of the adults in the neighborhood, sitting around talking to each other, too. I don’t see that as much either.

  10. I totally think it has to be the world that we live in today. I remember being able to wander all the way through the neighborhood and play with my friends and just be back when it was beginning to be dinner time. It’s awful that there is so little trust in the world to let kids do this anymore.

  11. Being outside is so important. but life is so busy most parents let a screen babysit their children for the majority of the day. It’s an awful reality but so true.

  12. Outside play is part of development and exploring! More parents need to get their kids outside whether they want to or not.

  13. It’s a shame because some of my favorite memories come from being outside. Kids today have become too much of a couch potato, watching tv and playing video games. They have lost their sense of imagination, and that’s a shame. It will come back to haunt them later on in their lives.

  14. Love the pictures of the boys with their sticks. Outside play encourages creative play. I’m one that thinks kids should play outdoors. Even in the winter, they need outdoor time — to clear off germs if nothing else!

  15. Its so crazy how much work it takes for me to get my oldest to go outside and be adventurous. I remember playing outside non-stop when I was younger.

  16. Those statistics are scary aren’t they. I have outdoor kids thankfully and I am lucky that I live in a cul-de-sac so the kids can play out on their bikes

  17. I encourage campaigns that get the kids out and about too. I remember always being outside as a youth.

  18. It is important for kids and adults as well to get physical activity in as often as possible. Failure to do this will result in the country holding a great medical bill.

  19. I certainly agree that there is a general decline of kids being outdoors and I personally believe that parents can do more to change that. To me, there is nothing wrong on kids being on devices but of course, it’s all a balance. I love the bit about your youngest escaping star naked through the cat flap – hilarious!

  20. Being outside in nature is better than being in front of the television screen. They are able to use their imaginations whereas the dumb box does it for them. I think they say healthier outdoors…let kids be kids and play.

  21. It’s nice seeing your kids love to play outside. Kids nowadays don’t have time to play outside. Instead, they enjoy playing tablets and phones.

  22. I like the way kids spend their time before. Unlike today, kids are just inside the house and carrying their gadgets with them. Kids should go out and play with their friends. It’s healthier that way.

  23. When I was still a child, I remember playing outside within the neighborhood. We would play anything and just giggle and laugh all day. Even the simple running or hopping is play to us. Now, many kids prefer to stay at home because of internet and online games, of tablets and game apps, and of again, online games. Though I let my boys use the tablet and their phone, i still would love to see them go outside and play. We bought them bike and basketball. We bought badminton and the likes. And I hope they would appreciate the value of playing outside as against sitting all day looking at the mobile phone’s screen.

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