50 Reasons why kids don’t play outside – A Response

I am very pleased to part of the National Trust bloggers campaign to help promote outdoor play, and I was really shocked, but not surprised, when one of my fellow bloggers Laura from @AboutLondon – blogged for Oik Strategy a list of 50 reasons kids don’t play outside anymore that she had compiled  in less than an hour!

Some points were extremely valid, and many I have been guilty of in my time as a parent, but I did feel the need to respond.

1.  Stranger Danger / Abduction Fear – a very real worry in this modern age, however there are no more abductions / attacks now than there were in the 70’s.  This is something that I have witnessed closely as Sarah Payne was snatched from the field next to my parents house and I have memories of combing that field with other locals at the time, so what can we do to help calm this fear?

  • Always accompany very young children
  • Teach them to be aware of stranger danger, but not scaremonger
  • Stay and Play with a group of children
  • Have a strict boundary’s of where they are / aren’t allowed to go
  • Have a strict time of when they have to be home 
  • Send older children out with a mobile phone
2.  Injury Fear – what child doesn’t have an injury at some point in their life?  A grazed knee, a bumped head and even a broken bone can all be fixed!  Take a basic first aid course locally, they are normally free and help you deal with unexpected situations!  My son broke his arm in 2011 and I had to fashion a sling out of a baby blanket!

3.  Traffic Fear – Do you remember the Green Cross Code?  It was drummed into us as children and is still as valid now as it was then.  For older children out on their bikes, look out for Cycling Proficiency courses that are often run by schools, or local Community Police Officers.

4.  Cold / Wet Weather – There is no such thing as the wrong weather – just the wrong clothes!  Invest in some wet weather gear – it doesn’t have to be expensive, Eliza got a waterproof trouser and jacket set from Lidl for £11 and her wellies were £3 in Tesco and take advice from Peppa and her friends and Jump in some Muddy puddles!!

5.  Dirty Places – By dirt I am assuming mud and general muck.  Make sure they are wearing old clothes and let them have fun!  That is what we have baths and laundry facilities for!

6.  Don’t know where to go – Explore the area you live on foot – it is amazing what you find when you’re not whizzing past in a car!  Free magazines from school are often packed full of ideas, check out Raring2Go and Primary Times , the internet or other parents and bloggers for lots of information. 

7.  Availability of Green space – I am extremely lucky where I live / have lived to have so much green space close by.  As for point 6, walk your local area and check the internet for places to go or join clubs such as Brownies, Scouts and even the armed forces for older children as they will take the kids out and show them fun places to go.

8.  Playgrounds are boring for adults – not much I can say to get round this one.  Have fun with the kids, they love to see you joining in too.  Or take a camera / camera phone and see what effects you can get using various apps.  It’s a fun reminder of the day!

9.  Wrong age play equipment – I have to admit this annoys me too.  If you have kids of different ages and one can play and one can’t, take a ball / frisbee or even find a stick.  So much fun can be had with them all.

10.  Playgrounds full of cigarette butts, litter and broken glass – we have had this problem locally too.  Get your local community involved, complain to the council / MP.  We know have checks every other day and any graffiti is removed regularly, but I have been known to go down with a broom and dustpan and brush before now to make sure it is safe.

11.  Unpleasant environment – this point is ambiguous, but again you could get the community involved to make it a better place to go, most kids just want somewhere safe to play!

12.  Don’t want mess in the house – you have kids – they make mess. FACT!  Shoes off at the door, in fact you can strip them at the door if you absolutely have to.  Invest in a dustpan and brush, hoover and a mop and bucket (depending on your flooring).

13.  Don’t have old / spare clothes – really?  Those trousers that are arguing with their ankles, top stained with food.  If you really haven’t visit good old Primark and pick up a pair of leggings / tracksuit bottoms for £2 – who cares if they get ruined?

14.  Something indoors and in the warm is more appealing – you get no argument from me here, it is more appealing.  But think how much better you feel if you have gone out and got some fresh air – the kids often behave better, sleep longer and you all have FUN!

15.  Favourite TV Show is on – Sky+, Virgin+ or record it on an old fashioned video player if it really is that important!  Most shows are repeated or on an online catch up service now too!

16.  No-one to supervise, take them out (Parents Working) – It’s hard, I know.  I remember my when my days off were all about playing catch up with the washing / housework etc.  If you are off on a school day – pick them up from school on foot for a change or if you are off at the weekend – even a couple of hours out of your day outside, will do you the world of good too!  It is quality time with the kids too – remember “Work, Life, Balance!

17.  Other people there (swearing parents) – sadly one of those things.  Ignore them, enjoy having fun with your family and explain the kids (out of earshot) why they mustn’t behave like that!

18.  Need play equipment to have fun – strictly speaking you don’t.  A bike, scooter, football is fab to have but what about things you find outdoors.  Play football with a pine cone, see who can throw a stick the furthest – even make Daisy chains.  The list is endless and keep an eye on freecycle – it’s amazing the stuff that people throw away!

19.  Too many structured after school activities / weekend (Over-scheduled kids) – Check out 10 minute activities on Project Wildthing

20.  Too much effort to pack a bag, get kids changed, load a buggy etc – Just think how much fun your kids will have with an impromptu picnic – it doesn’t have to be posh – a drink, sandwich and a bag of crisps.  Remember – they’ll sleep better later ;0)

21.  Just not something your family does! – only you can change that.

22.  Don’t like exercise – It doesn’t feel like exercise when you are having fun – beats running on a treadmill at the gym, anyday!

23.  Poor health – parent or child – this is a tough one.  It depends on what the issue is, but take advice from your GP / Health Visitor.  Fresh air is important for a lot of rehabilitation.

24.  Computer Game addiction – I really empathise with this one.  As a mother of tween  / teenagers it can be a real battle to get them out the door and sometimes the whining is almost unbearable.  But, once they are out they really enjoy themselves and it is vital they get a break from computers and gaming.  We have now made a pledge that they get an hours computer time, for an hour’s outdoor play and it is working!

Start of the day – missing his computer and Minecraft!
Does this look like a face that hasn’t had fun?

25.  Kids don’t enjoy playing outdoors – play with them rather than supervising.  They might just not know how to play!

26.  Time pressures – Check out 10 minute activities on Project Wildthing

27.  Inner city neighbourhood not safe for children to play – Ask yourself what makes it unsafe.  Is there something you can do about it?

28.  Dog Poo everywhere – one of my bugbears!! Tell the local council there is a problem, they should clean it up and help monitor the situation!

29.  Kids are transported on cars and don’t walk much – can you walk to school?  If it is walking distance away why not walk at least once a week, or if you have to drive – park in the next street!  If you have a car, you have a better chance of being able to find somewhere fun to go!!

30.  Foxes and wildlife – it is highly unlikely that any form of wildlife in the UK will hurt you – they are more scared of you, than you are of them!  I am more worries about poorly trained dogs if I am honest!

31.  Scaremongering in Newspapers – these stories are everywhere – papers, online even the TV.  Take advice e.g. don’t walk until cliffs that are unstable, don’t swim in swollen rivers etc, but be sensible – there is still plenty you can do

32.  Over-protective parents – Look back at your childhood and think how much fun you had outside – it’s a great learning tool and gives children the foundations to be happy and confident in the outside world!

33.  Playing fields being sold off – find out what they’re putting there.  If they’re building they may have to provide a children’s park as part of the agreement!

34.  Bullying – bullying less likely to occur if parents there – do you know the child’s parents, could you talk to them?

35.  Fear of neighbours – Is that Mr & Mrs Grumble?  They can’t stop kids playing, just make sure the kids don’t deliberately target them.

36.  Too many parked cars to play on the street – where is the nearest green space – garden they can use?

37.  Inside is closer to food; often junk food – more reason to get them outside and exercising

38.  Lethargy – easier to let the TV entertain than entertain yourself – it’s all very well watching people have fun on the TV, they need to experience it for themselves!

39.  Lack of imagination – books, internet and even the TV are full of fun ideas.  Use some key words to search!

40.  Not safe to play alone in your own garden / backyard – it doesn’t cost much to make things safe if you really want to.  Have a DIY party with family and friends, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve in a day!!

41.  The internet for fun and learning – but not experiences!!  We learn best when we try for ourselves

42.  Obesity – don’t want to play as it isn’t easy when you’re fat – sadly it is a vicious circle to get in to.  Speak to your GP, they have organised groups that can help where people encourage play, or take them somewhere quiet until they get their confidence.

43.  Gangs in parks – Teenage gangs can be intimidating.  I have found they tend to move on when your approach with kids and politely ask them to move, but if it’s an issue then it is a matter for your local police. 

44.  Drug Pushers in the bushes –  Again a matter for the police

45.  No transport to reach wild areas to play – another of my bugbears when I didn’t have my own car.  Some places do run a minibus service on certain days – it is worth phoning to check.  Do you have a friend / family member with a car – they may be able to help.

46.  Need to go shopping instead – having food in the house is important – supermarkets are open 24 hours these days and it doesn’t take that long!!

47.  Parents afraid kids making noise will annoy others – teach them to be respectful.   Personally I have no issue with raucous play in daytime hours, it is after 7pm when I am trying to get little ones in bed that it can be frustrating.

48.  Too embarrassed – don’t want to look silly – you never know – that silly moment could earn you £250 on “You’ve been framed”!!

49.  No encouragement – family not teaching outdoor games – make up your own games, draw pictures in the mud using sticks, or get tips from friends!

50.  Comparing parents in posh playgrounds – who cares what others think as long as you and the kids are having fun!!

There are some real issues in this list I don’t deny, but there are also some, quite frankly, lame excuses too!  Do you have some better responses to mine, or ideas perhaps?  I would love to hear them!

Resources and links for ideas about outdoor play:

http://www.projectwildthing.com/  (This is where you can pledge to equal your screen time to your outdoor time)

Natural childhood

9 thoughts on “50 Reasons why kids don’t play outside – A Response”

  1. Just to clarify I write for OIK Strategy but I’m not OIK Strategy. I’m @AboutLondon.

    It’s great that the blog post inspired you to find so many positives. I still think the idea of carrying a dustpan and brush to the park is not going to happen. I’ll pick up a few crisp packets that are blowing around but I’m not taking a pooper scooper and a broom.

    Also I don’t have, and don’t want, to wear £2 Primark leggings so no, I don’t have old clothes.

    Oh and a child was snatched my local park last year so the fears are valid.

    You are a wonderful bundle of positivity but I’m still not going to approach a gang in the park. I’m not talking a few teenagers who would respond and listen I mean a gang. The type who sells drugs openly and know no-one will approach them. The type who do it next to a Primary School. The type who drink and smoke drugs at the park. Yeah, I can tell the police but it’s also going to keep me away from the park.

    I hope there is a balance to be found in the negatives and the positives we found.

    • Thanks for your comment Laura.
      I wouldn’t ordinarily carry a dustpan and brush to the park, but I have on occasions had to clear up after rowdy teenagers who decided to smash bottles there and on the pavement. More for my peace of mind as my kids were riding bikes and a) I didn’t want them to fall off into it and b) get an expensive puncture. I think it is a real shame that communities don’t tend to get involved with this anymore like they used to.
      Regards to clothing, I do by the kids clothing for messy play from Primark or other cheap and cheerful shops as I (and I am sure many parents agree), don’t want clothes ruined. Me – I wear my jeans and if I have to bung them in the wash then so be it.
      I am very lucky where I live that we have no issues with the sort of gangs you describe, and I admit it would deter me from the park but, I strongly believe that I would find somewhere else to go and use every avenue I could to try and do something about it alongside my community. We have certainly made progress here, albeit they’re mostly bored teenagers with no place to go.
      There are many valid reasons I agree, but also many more excuses. I have had some great debates on twitter about what age you should let your child go to the park alone etc, and that is what this issue needs – healthy debates!

  2. I was shocked and appalled at the excuses given, several of them made me just want to cry with the sadness of them. The most pathetic of excuses. Our motto is ‘Clothes in the machine, me in the bath’ and to that end I’d echo that clothes are fundamentally for protection and warmth. While everyone wants to look nice, there is a time and a place, and I do not think that it’s too much to have a set of slightly older clothes for playing in. Furthermore, the excuses about playgrounds being boring for parents is true but if we try asking the children if they like them they’d say yes. Therefore, does it matter if we find it boring? It’s for the children and as long as they’re enjoying themselves then parents need to get a grip.

    • I completely agree with you and it should be all about the kids having fun.
      I see many a girl wearing a Tutu & leggings and to Moors valley, so they get to look like a princess and have fun – you simply put them in the wash when you get home!

  3. What a great post. There is never any excuse for not going outside. As you show here, there is always a way. As far as I can tell, not going outside is just laziness on the parent’s part and that is unfair on the children, leading to lethargy, boredom, games addiction and even obesity.

  4. Hi I’m Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! LifesABanquet1(at)gmail.com

  5. So many excuses! I love getting out with my boys and playing in the fresh air. There is Always an adventure to be had wherever you are! Walking through a field and you suddenly stop and say shhhh! I think there is a TRex following us! And the adventure begins and their imaginations kick in!


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