There seems little doubt that they don't. Or, if they do, they're never far away from a watchful adult eye. Not like me. When I was growing up I'd sometimes disappear all day. In the summer of 1976 me and some friends would play cricket all-day on the local playing field. I was a tearaway England fast-bowler, just what Tony Greig and his team needed that summer as they were made to grovel by the mighty West Indies. Then when I batted, there was Garner, Holding and Roberts to be dispatched to all four corners of the cricket field. In my dreams...
It's a shame that such dreams are seldom a reality for children these day. Talking to ex-England Rugby International Austin Healey the other day, he blamed what he called the 'cotton-wool society' for denying today's children the chance to 'go outside and have a childhood'. I was invited to interview him (by telephone) at the launch of an initiative by Play England in partnership with Savlon to celebrate the national day for play on 3 August 2011. And they've conducted some research, which reveals that:
42 per cent of children report they have never made a daisy chain
32 per cent have never climbed a tree
A quarter of children today have never had the simple pleasure of rolling down a hill
47 per cent of adults built dens every week as a child, yet 29 per cent of today’s children say they have never built a den at all
A third of children have never played hopscotch
One in ten children have never ridden a bike
And father of four Austin Healey says: 'Encouraging my daughters to behave like children - exploring, discovering and creating, reminds me of the joys of my childhood and are experiences I want them to enjoy. Hunting around the trees in our local park, learning to ride a bike or just leaving them to make up their own outdoor games is an important part of growing up.' He added that he's worried that the rise in social media interaction is preventing some children from engaging in normal, face-to-face friendships: 'Kids today are socially mobile but they often lack the interaction of playing outside with your friends.'
Playday is the national day for play in the UK, a celebration of children’s right to play and a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children’s lives. The campaign is coordinated by Play England, part of the leading children's charity the National Children’s Bureau, working in partnership with Play Wales, PlayBoard Northern Ireland and Play Scotland. Visit www.playday.org.uk for more information.