- 51% of children will spend most of their summer holiday engaged in screen- time activities
- Nearly a quarter of children would like to spend more time playing outdoors
- Homebase is calling for parents to give their children Room to Grow this summer
As millions of primary school children return to school next week, research from Homebase UK & Ireland reveals that 51% of them will spend most of the summer watching television and playing computer games.
The survey, of parents of children aged 5-11, undertaken as part of the ‘Room to Grow’ campaign, has found that traditional activities such as ‘freestyle’ play, building dens or bike riding are no longer favoured childhood pastimes as they once were and that time spent on computer games (66%) or watching TV (83%) far outweighs creative games such as messy play (34%), make believe (33%), or outdoor activities such as gardening (20%) in a child’s average week.
One of the main reasons seems to be that modern parents don’t like their children getting mucky or playing creative games unsupervised: only 16% of parents surveyed said that they would let their child garden unsupervised whilst 26% said they would allow them to do messy play without adult supervision. This is compared to 73% who said they would be happy to let their child watch TV alone and 56% who said they would let their child play computer games on their own. In another recent study 43% of adults thought that a child shouldn’t play outdoors unsupervised until the age of 14.
The Homebase Room to Grow campaign aims to address this by encouraging parents to create a dedicated outdoor space where their children can experiment with freestyle play without the need for constant supervision from adults.
Leading psychologists have noted that the time children have for free, exploratory, hands-on play is essential for developing their independence, imagination and creativity. Yet more and more research is showing that creative, outdoor play is in serious decline. A recent survey found that on average children spend an hour or less outside each day with one in 10 never playing outdoors, whilst research carried out last year showed that children aged between 5 & 16 spend an average of 6.5 hours a day in front of a screen.
Sarah Coldrake, Garden Buyer at Homebase, said: “We’re calling on parents to turn the TV off and let their children get creative instead. By creating a dedicated ‘Room to Grow’ in the garden, parents can be more relaxed about letting their children get messy, be independent, discover nature and experiment with gardening”.
The survey also found that other activities taking up our children’s weekly time include organised activity clubs and lessons (61% of children attend an organised club or activity at least once a week) with 17% of parents surveyed saying that they felt guilty if they don’t organise regular activities for their child. Sarah Coldrake said: “We know that the school holidays can be challenging for parents, juggling childcare and finding ways to entertain the kids, but often the simplest ideas can keep them entertained for hours. The message for families is that it’s ok to stay at home and let your children experiment with play.”
Lee Connelly, one half of the Skinny Jean Gardeners who are supporting the campaign adds: “Dale and I were always outside as kids. Playing on our own or with friends. Outdoors is what I remember. That’s what the Room to Grow campaign is all about.
“We really believe that given the freedom and space to experiment with outdoor play, kids can be encouraged away from the TV and computer and into the garden. 31% of parents in the Homebase survey said they would like their child to spend more time outdoors and 23% said their kids would like to be outside more often. If we give them the opportunity, they can enjoy mucking about outdoors as much as we did. Our mission is to get kids gardening. It doesn’t matter what they do, it’s about being outside with soil between their fingers being creative and having fun”.