When I was a child I used to love taking home a little slip for my parents to sign, that said we were going on a school outing. I can remember this from a very young age. My son started school last year, and I just got my first slip a few months in. It got me to thinking, is the school trip a thing of the past? I can’t wait to hear his news when he gets back. We’d love to know your thoughts and how your children’s schools work. We asked Canopies UK on their views.

Should we give kids more freedom to play?

For parents, it is natural to be concerned about the safety and well-being of their children. It is a process that never stops no matter whether they are a toddler or whether they are just going off to university.

However, over time there seems to be more coverage of issues relating to the welfare of our children in the news. Whilst it may not necessarily be on the increase, it raises doubts in our minds just what we should be allowing children to do and what not to do. But are we being over-zealous? MyBaba explores the issue and provides some tips on how we can make more use of playtime.

Changing times

An article featuring Rebecca Caswell, an expert at the children’s museum Eureka! in Halifax, has pointed out that our attitudes may have changed over generations. From our grandparents to our parents, the furthest we let our children go out on their own has slowly declined.

We live in a changing world where certain things have become more acceptable over time, whilst our grandparents may have seen a change in the opposite direction to their own childhoods.

It is not just our attitudes but also the world around us. We have had a technological boom that has lowered the cost of items that are available meaning items are a more accessible to a lot of people. You hear stories occasionally that only one house had a TV in your street. Nowadays it is not uncommon to have more than one TV in a house. Some children no longer walk to school but get lifts to a school by car, incidentally which households may have more than one of, that may only be a walk of 15 minutes away.

So what about our attitudes to outdoor play? Well, even that seems to be changing. Research shows that we prefer to keep our children close to us. According to the Daily Mail, a study by Play England showed that less than a quarter of children now play out as much as adults did when we were children.

Tip: Spend more time outdoors with children yourself even if it is just going for a walk around the garden (if you have one). Further afield, go camping, or if you can’t do that, go to a local park.

And it is at school too

A lot of the time, health and safety is the key to why children are being protected more. It is not just at home but also in school too. Back in 2010, The Telegraph included an article warning of the decline of the school trip. This is not necessarily down to parents influencing schools but it comes down to the amount of paperwork involved and concerns of the ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’ culture. Schools have even taken to banning certain items, or playing on specific surfaces.

Many parents will be content that their school is there to educate and that most will operate with the highest care and diligence when it comes to the safety of children. However, it could be that this culture of a minority could be playing a part in affecting the development of our children.

Tip: Take kids to places you used to visit when you were young and talk to them about your own youth. Spend any free time visiting places that may be of interest to them in absence of school trips.

The importance of learning and play at home and on the curriculum

As Rebecca Caswell explains, play is a significant part of learning for children. Not just from a point of view of them learning about how to do certain activities but also about them learning about risks involved and how to have safe play.

“Play is crucial to children’s development. It contributes to their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being.”

This is also something emphasised by Judith Hackitt, chair of the Health and Safety Executive, has said too: “Play – and particularly play outdoors – teaches young people how to deal with risk. Without this awareness and learning they are ill equipped to deal with adult life. Outdoor play and learning is an important part of our children’s education.”

Tip: If you have any outdoor space, turn this into a child’s play haven. This will keep them visible to you in your own space but give them the freedom to explore and do their own thing.

Is there anything else I can do?

  • Participate in activities using the local area with children. Go on a bike ride and sit down with children and plan a route. Talk about places in the local area, or point out things to them to help them learn.
  • Involve technology in outdoor fun. Got a camera? Take them places and let them take pictures of what you see.
  • Get kids to create a picture out of things they find in the garden such as leaves and twigs. Talk to them about different plants and leaves.
  • Speak to friends and family. See if there is anything they do – or that you can do together – that may inspire you.

Whatever you do, it’s worth remembering that safe play can be encouraged in a number of different ways and each parent will have their own style.

Canopies UK is the leading designer and manufacturer of outdoor canopies for homes. They are keen advocates of outdoor play through active learning for children both at home and in schools.