The APPG on a Fit & Healthy Childhood has today released its 14th report: Mental Health Through Movement and says that ‘movement is the mainspring for children’s mental health’.
The Association of Play Industries (API) has been delighted to contribute significantly to the report, outlining how children are pulled indoors by the power of digital culture and pushed away from outdoor play due to severe cuts to playground provision.
API Chair Mark Hardy says: “Over 1100 parents responded to our Play Must Stay survey through Mumsnet telling us loudly and clearly that this is an issue they are extremely worried about.
“All scientific evidence points to the fact that movement is vital for children’s mental health and for normal, healthy development. We have now a generation of children who are being deprived of free, unstructured, outdoor play and as such, a troubled generation.
“Parents know this instinctively. Over a quarter of those parents surveyed who have children with mental health difficulties said that the lack of local playgrounds had played a role in their children’s problems. This result was replicated also for those children experiencing issues with their sleep.
“Frustratingly, one of the core solutions to the mental health crisis is a simple and relatively cheap one: as most children live in urban areas, playgrounds often represent their only opportunity for outdoor play. Unless the alarming cuts to playground provision uncovered in our Nowhere To Play research are reversed, and more playgrounds created to secure future outdoor play, the mental health crisis will spiral yet deeper.
“There is now an urgent need to restore outdoor play as the primary leisure activity for children, replacing indoor, solitary and sedentary screen-based time. Children sit for hours on end, not moving or socialising and this is having a devastating impact on their mental and physical health.
“Our research shows that, as early as age 8, children are starting to shun outdoor play in favour of screen time, and by the ages of 10 to 12, 69% of them prefer screens, with parents finding it difficult to persuade them to go outside. There is a critical period when we have to ‘catch’ children and imbue in them a sense that outdoor play is the norm, so ensuring that movement becomes a lifetime habit.
“Free, community playgrounds are absolutely key in this. We must not take them for granted; once a playground is lost it is usually lost for good. As the report points out, this is not about a nanny state interfering, it is about empowering and supporting parents in their endeavours to raise fit and healthy children, in body and mind. Playgrounds need to be abundant, accessible, safe and convenient to truly meet the needs of communities.
“We are calling upon the government for urgent and sustained funding for public playground provision; a relatively modest investment now will pay great dividends for this and generations to come.”
The API is attending the launch of the report at the House of Commons this Wednesday 30 October.