Young and carefree

Published in The Courier Mail (print), 28 November 2018

One of the state’s top play experts warns that over-protective parents must push past their fears as cooped-up children are yearning to explore the outdoors.

The warning comes as a Queensland Family and Child Commission Report confirms that kids, labelled the online generation, want to go out to play in natural green spaces.

They want zip lines, trees, walls and ropes to climb, and rough and bumpy paths to ride their bikes. Coddled kids who are not allowed to engage in risky play are more likely to face problems with weight, mental health, independence, learning, perception and judgement skills.

The commission asked 7000 kids aged four-18 what it was like to grow up in Queensland.

Hyahno Moser, Program Manager of Nature Play QLD, said he was heartened that the report showed kids were still as keen as ever to make friends face-to-face in the great outdoors – and said that it was up to parents and planners to make it happen.

Research shows that fewer than one in 10 children venture further than a few metres from their front door. The radius explored by children aged seven and eight has shrunk by 90 per cent in just one generation.

“The changes in childhood where children no longer play in their neighbourhoods due to barriers, both real and imagined by protective parents, is making a healthy lifestyle for our children increasingly difficult to achieve,” Mr Moser said.

“For previous generations, our local areas were one great big playground, ripe for exploring. Neighbourhoods also facilitated a sense of belonging, community citizenship, local care and concern. For modern children, most suburbs resemble safety compounds than places to play.”

More than half (55 percent) of 13-to-18-year-olds surveyed said that they could trust most people in their community. There are 1,149,645 children in Queensland, making up 24 per cent of the population.

For most children and young people, a significant amount of time outside school hours is spent with their peers in the community. This includes being at home or at a friend’s house (72 per cent), at shopping centres (59 per cent), the movies (53 per cent) or online (48 per cent).

Robert Oakleigh from New Farm said his daughter Genevieve, 6, loved nature.

“It’s important for kids to get out and get dirty,” he said.

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