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Play time palls for youngsters

Four-year-old Zoe Young, of Maroochydore, is one child who has no trouble entertaining herself outside.
Four-year-old Zoe Young, of Maroochydore, is one child who has no trouble entertaining herself outside. Warren Lynam

TOO much homework, not enough time and the attraction of electronic devices are killing off children's play time.

A new study of the play habits of Australian children aged eight to 12 revealed nearly half (45%) no longer play every day.

This is despite parents and grandparents believing it is essential for their child's development.

The Milo State of Play study, conducted by Sweeney Research, found that more than 94% of parents and grandparents believed in the importance of play.

But it is rapidly falling off the list of priorities.

The report identified lack of inspiration, time pressures and an "over reliance on technology" as the main contributing factors.

Child psychologist Paula Barrett said that unstructured, active play was "essential to help kids learn important life skills, develop imagination and creativity, form habits and cope in changeable situations.

"This finding highlights a concerning yet common misperception that many parents share - they don't think that kids need to 'play' regularly after the age of eight," Ms Barrett said.

"But in reality, active play is extremely important for eight to 12-year-old children as it is a critical development stage.

"In addition to missing out on the fun of play and learning important social skills, parents and children may lose the opportunity for important bonding time."

Interestingly, children want parents to join them at playtime. More than half (55%) would like to play with their parents more, ahead of any other playmate. And one in three children say they have no one to play with, so the role of parents becomes even more important.

The Young family, of Maroochydore, is bucking the trend. Jodie Young said her five children, aged between 12 and one, could not wait to get outside and play after school.

"Camping holidays" is the reason her children are different to their peers.

"We've taken them camping since they were young and they just love it," Ms Young said.

"They learn they can live without TVs and iPods and discover their happiest times are swimming and running around with friends."

 

STATE OF PLAY REPORT

  • 37% of children say they have run out of ideas for play so may turn to electronic devices for amusement.
  • Almost half of children's free time (47%) is spent plugged in - watching TV, playing video games or on electronic devices
  • 44% of children claim they are too tired from school or have too much homework to play
  • 43% of parents struggle to find time to play with their children

Topics:  children, state of play report


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