Celebrating Outdoor Play Everyday – A Risk Worth Taking

‘The more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves’ Roald Dahl

I think many of us would agree that this is true – finding that edge where risk and reward are in total balance is a lovely idea. The reality is that there is no risk rulebook to help us get it right. The definition of the word risk is ‘a situation involving exposure to danger’. So what is acceptable risk, what is an acceptable level of danger to expose your child too? These are deeply challenging questions that parents and teachers have to grapple with everyday.

Germolene Antiseptic Cream*, the dual action treatment works as an antiseptic, local anaesthetic and emollient to soften the skin and take care of multiple family first-aid needs, is the latest brand to explore the issue of outdoor, free play with their campaign: ‘Celebrate Play Everyday.’ Germolene has just published new research undertaken with 2,000 UK parents from three generations. The conclusions confirm that when it comes to permitting free play, there isn’t a lack of will, but there is a fundamental fear around allowing risk into children’s lives.

We increasingly see risk aversion acting as a driver towards a more sedentary, screen based lifestyle, which in turn exposes children to a whole new set of physical and emotional risks.

This research confirms that the vast majority of parents, in this case 95%, recognise the benefits of outdoor play to childhood development such as physical exercise, social interaction and cognitive skills. It is also emphasises that there is very little rejection of the idea of a free-range, outdoor childhood (even if it brings in some risk) with 72% of parents believing that experiencing occasional cuts and grazes is important for childhood development.

However, the reality is somewhat different. Nearly seven in 10 (69%) think the fear of getting hurt is causing many parents to wrap their children in cotton wool. Four in five parents (80%) said they used to play outdoors every day after school, compared to just over half (56%) of children today. More than a fifth (22%) of parents said they don’t actively encourage their children to play outside, in part due to worries about their safety.

The intention gap

This research provides further evidence of a fundamental intention gap between what we believe is right for our children and the reality of the levels of risk we are prepared to allow into our families and communities. Addressing this is not simple, and it highlights once again the need to not simply promote the benefits of Wild Time and free play, but to address the deeper reasons that stop us from making it happen.

Social attitudes to risk and free play are complex, inter-linked and affected by numerous issues ranging from cars and perceptions of stranger danger to dangerous streets. These are the barriers to Wild Time that we are seeking to address in our work, which you can read about here:

Too often, we expect the response to these issues to come from individuals and families who recognise the consequences of not providing the level of free play and outdoor time that they remember. However, in the face of these complex challenges, an individual response can feel quite daunting. So we want to ask how we might scale up our individual responses at a community and school level to create the space for roaming and appropriate risk taking to happen?

It’s easy to reminisce about the good old days when we all roamed free as children, but it’s worth remembering that this was also a result of the wider environment and social construct of the times. Fewer cars made cycling and street games easier. Football was a ‘jumpers for goalposts’ game played on any available patch of land not an organised routine activity. Different attitudes to work meant that mums and sometimes dads were more available and in screaming distance for those times when free play ‘ended in tears’. The modern world offers so many great advantages, but also there have also been consequences.

So what can we do, where to begin?

Tackling deeply held societal problems isn’t easy and can’t be solved by a single thing but rather through a series of experiments and interventions as families, communities and schools. All of which will push the edges of fear and risk in one way or another.

So, here are some ideas for how we can all do that in our communities, families and schools:

Start a regular street play scheme

The team at Playing Out have some great resources to help you get started at loads of evidence that Playing Out really works.

Screen Project Wild Thing

Over 1 million people have now seen it and to celebrate we’re giving away 250 free community screenings. Use it to gather your community together to discuss how you can rewild your family and community

Read more about how to redesign your community

These two great books contain loads of brilliant insights and ideas for how you can re-imagine your community around free play.

Playborhood book
Play spaces book

Get your school involved

Its back-to-school time so now is a great time to gather your school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and explore whether you can do more to get your school to embrace outdoor learning.

If you need more evidence to persuade you of the benefits of wild time in your school this Natural England report is packed full of it.

Sign your school up for Outdoor Classroom Day, the next one is on the 7th September and over 1.5 million children have been involved so far.

If you are a teacher looking for some inspiration for how to take your learning outdoors, sign up to our outdoor learning platform.

Germolene will soon be hosting a competition for two schools to win a £5,000 grant towards outdoor play equipment – to find out more, see below!

We’d love to hear from you!

Over the next few weeks, we’d like to share more about this issue so we can all get inspired to try more.

  • What examples have you seen and do you use where you are? Is your school or community pioneering a response to this issue – we’d love to hear about it.
  • Are there any examples of self-organising tools that help families connect with one another to create opportunities for child-led, active play? We’d love to hear about groups of families who have been experimenting where they live.
  • How old are your children and how far do you let them roam from home? How different is this to your own childhood?

Win outdoor play equipment for your school

As part of their campaign, this September Germolene is offering you the chance to nominate a primary school for the chance to win one of two £5,000 grants towards outdoor play equipment for your child’s school.

The competition goes live on Wednesday 6th September and closes on Monday 2nd October 2017.

Once the competition is live, visit here to enter:

* Germolene Antiseptic Cream contains phenol and chlorhexidine gluconate. Always read the label

children, DANGER STREETS Fear, freedom, inspiration, LACK OF FREE RANGE PLAY, Outdoor Play, Play, project wild thing, RISK AVERSE CULTURE, Schools