How old should children be to play outside on their own?

Joy for children with the reopening of play areas in the region. PHOTO: RUSSELL PLAY

Children enjoying an outdoor play area. - Credit: Archant

Primary-age children are losing out on the freedom of independent play, experts have found.

Research has also highlighted that youngsters are not allowed out to play outside on their own until two years older than their parents generation.

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, according to the study.

It warned that not enough adventurous play could affect children’s long-term physical and mental health.

Helen Dodd, a professor of child psychology at the University of Reading, who led the study, said: "In the largest study of play in Britain, we can clearly see that there is a trend to be protective and to provide less freedom for our children now than in previous generations.

“The concerns we have from this report are twofold. First, we are seeing children getting towards the end of their primary school years without having had enough opportunities to develop their ability to assess and manage risk independently. Second, if children are getting less time to play outdoors in an adventurous way, this may have an impact on their mental health and overall wellbeing.”

Researchers asked more than 1,900 parents of five-to-11-year-olds about their children’s play for the British Children’s Play Survey, the largest study of its kind.

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They found that children averaged three hours of play a day over the course of a year, around half of which took place outside.

The average age a child was allowed to play outside alone was 10.7 years, while their parents recalled being allowed out before their ninth birthday (8.9 years on average).

The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research into Public Health, found that children who were white, not first-born and whose parents had a higher level of education were allowed out at a younger age.

It also revealed that children in Scotland were allowed out at the youngest age, a year before those in Wales and all regions of England.

Within the report, concerns were raised that modern children’s playgrounds are not sufficiently challenging.

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