Most of us agree that it’s a good idea to let your kids get out and get some fresh air every now and then rather than letting them go square-eyed in front of the TV ?
But allowing your kids to do this comes with some worries too – busy roads, stranger danger and possible accidents of all sorts.
And when we asked 1,427 parents at what age they’d let their let kids play out with their mates of a similar age unsupervised, the most popular answers were:
- 10 (19%)
- 8 (18%)
- 9 (9%)
Probing further, lots of parents said they’d be happy for their kids to play out in the garden on their own, but for many, being near a busy road was the thing that put them off letting their kids play out alone the most.
Lots also said the age they’d let them do it would depend on the maturity of the child.
One respondent, who has a 9-year-old son, said: “We’ve allowed him to play on the street. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac.
“As he’s gotten older he’s been allowed to go to the fields alongside the house and to the park in the centre of the village.
“The latter two have been recent developments – until he was 8 years he was very firmly where we could see him.”
Another parent, with 2 kids, the oldest being 3, said: “Depends where outside. If they were in our garden then I would be happy from 5 onwards because I know it is safe and there is no danger.
“But if they were out of sight then they would need to be older.”
What does the expert say?
We caught up with educational psychologist Naomi Burgess on this one, who confirmed that when to let children play out alone is so much about the context.
“When parents look at questions of maturity and safety this might mean asking whether the child knows how to deal with ‘emergency situations’ and gauging what mechanisms need to be in place to ensure that the location is ‘safe’.
“The huge difference between town and country also comes immediately to mind.”
Naomi reckons it’s helpful first to ask ourselves why play is important and what children learn from play, and then, how to build that in to their time.
‘Children need to develop independence, sharing and negotiating skills, physical prowess and overcoming of fear, role shifting in fantasy play, emotional intelligence, strength and resilience, and myriad other skills,” she reminds us. “Play offers boundless opportunities for this.
“If you make your first consideration that of looking at ways to support these developments in a safe and constructive way; Indoors or outdoors? Supervised or alone?
“You may find that the initial question is simply a great springboard into thinking about how you view play and what you might want to provide or suggest to your children.”
Here are some of the key words from our parents on this topic…