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A girl playing hopscotch in the street.

The Essential Art of Unstructured Play

Children teach parents a thing or two. For mums’ and children’s views on nature read more here.

‘Growing up too fast’ is a phrase often applied to the kids of today – you may have even said it yourself. As parents, the world we grew up in and childhood experiences we had are vastly different from the things our children encounter. This is worrying for us, but could it be that our own lifestyles and concerns for our kids are actually encouraging our children to grow up too fast?

The fast pace of today’s world can mean we have less free time to spend together with family. This means that when we do get family time, it is precious and predominantly spent indoors or in pre-planned activities that offer maximum bonding time. Additionally, as urbanisation spreads, there are fewer quality outdoor spaces for kids to run around freely and play. The lack of time and decent facilities for many families means today’s children are more likely to watch TV after their homework is complete, rather than play in the yard or park.

Does this mean children are losing the essential art of unstructured play?

We spoke to 9500 mothers with children 12 years old or younger across 10 countries* to find out if the perception that kids are growing up too fast was shared, to gauge their opinions of unstructured play and gain a true measure of their concerns. In collaboration with Dr Jerome Singer and Dr Dorothy Singer, the results of these conversations were analysed and published in the whitepaper ‘Giving our Children the Right to be Children’.

Losing the art of play: the impact

Research shows that a worrying 1 in 2 mums (52%) across the world believe childhood as they know it is over, and 77% are concerned that kids today are growing up too fast.

Mums also recognise that a lack of unstructured play and an increase in sedentary activities can impact their kids’ health:

  • 62% agree it is no surprise that kids are overweight today

  • 37% are personally concerned that their own children don’t play enough to be physically healthy

Despite their daily internal struggles, mums want to overcome the obstacles to unstructured play so they can protect and reclaim ‘childhood’ for their own children and future generations by seeking out opportunities that reward their children with the benefits and exciting experiences of play.

Working with experiential play and child development experts, OMO has created a bank of indoor and outdoor activities for your kids to learn and have fun with.

*Interviews were conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Brazil, France, Thailand, China, India, Turkey and South Africa.