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Children’s right to play must be protected, DECP responds to British Children’s Play Survey

21 April 2021

The BPS’ Division of Educational and Child Psychology has reiterated its position on the importance of play in children’s lives in response to the findings from the British Children’s Play Survey.

The survey findings revealed that primary-age children in Britain are typically are not are allowed to play outside on their own until two years older than their parents’ generation were. While their parents were allowed to play outside unsupervised by the age of nine on average, today’s children are 11 by the time they reach the same milestone.

The DECP has long advocated for the importance of play for children as critical to their development and wellbeing. Play can also help develop children’s learning and skills and is hugely important as a socio-cultural activity and not just because of its relation to learning.

Dr Dan O’Hare, co-chair of the DECP, said:

“The findings of this survey highlight the urgent need to prioritise play for our children, and the importance of all children and young people having access to free, high quality, and local opportunities for play.

“We need to ensure we have spaces in our communities which are perceived as safe by parents, with accessible places to play near homes. We need to understand the wider factors that might also impact a child’s ability to play, or parent’s willingness to let their children play alone outside, such as increased traffic and poor air quality.”

Dr Melernie Meheux, co-chair of the DECP, added:

“Through our personal and professional interactions with children we know the value of play, and how children can struggle when their right to play is curtailed either by their environment or as a form of punishment.

“Given the impact of the pandemic on children’s opportunities for play and socialisation, now more than ever it is imperative that play and break times are not reduced or taken away from children as punishment."


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