Outdoor play ‘shunned in favour of expensive gadgets’
Over-indulgent parents are putting children’s long-term development at risk by lavishing them with expensive toys, according to research.
Young children are missing out on opportunities to take part in traditional outdoor play – seen as vital to improve their social skills, language and creativity – after spending hours cooped up indoors with PCs, iPads, games consoles and mobile phones, it was claimed.
Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education, said that free play was declining in popularity as parents are confronted by “pressure from all angles to buy the latest toys and gadgets”.
The comments came as a survey of 2,000 British parents published today found that families spent an average of more than £10,000 on toys for each child before they turn 19.
One-in-six mothers and fathers said they resorted to the latest gadgets to “look good in front of other families” and one-in-10 even admitted banning their children from accessing some “untrendy” toys, according to the study published by Ribena.
Speaking as the research was released, Mrs Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, said the consumer culture had “led to parents being seduced into thinking that the more they provide for their children in terms of material, electrical goods and, in turn, the more money they spend, the better parents they are”.
“Sadly these days we tend to see parents facing pressure from all angles to buy the latest toys and gadgets and other forms of free, exploratory play become less part of childhood than in previous years,” she said.
“Active play helps to develop balance, coordination, motor skills and spatial awareness and outdoor play helps to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D, may help to prevent the development of eyesight problems and helps children maintain a healthy weight.
“When playing with others they learn how to interact socially, collaborate and cooperate while also developing language skills.
“Through first hand experience, trial and error, risk taking and discovery they learn how things work, and they have time and space to engage in imaginative play, creative and innovative thinking.”
According to the Ribena study, modern parents are under “unprecedented pressure” to spend money on toys rather than time playing with their children.
The fashion for designer items including mini tablet PCs, toddler-sized motorised cars and children’s mobile phones is driving the new trend, with cash-strapped parents feeling forced into spending thousands to keep up, it was claimed.
Experts including Mrs Goddard Blythe have now created a simple travel-sized box of traditional toys costing just £6.12 – and list of 50 games to accompany it – that all parents can access as an alternative to expensive gadgets.
The box – backed by Ribena – contains coloured threads, coloured paper, pencils, small building blocks, modelling clay, beads, cardboard pieces and toy people.