What Happened to Playing Outside?
Many generations have grown up playing outdoors. However, it seems that children these days do not play outside their homes as much as they used to. What has changed really? Has digitalization affected how we play? One lesson we learned from the Spielwarenmesse® 2020 Toy Fair in Nuremberg is that children still like to play outside but indeed don’t do so often.
There is not as much space outdoors as there was in the past
So what has happened to playing outside? One of the most apparent reasons is that outside space is more limited nowadays. Open-air places have given way to houses, buildings and cars. More and more vehicles drive through the streets, and parents know that. Since they’re aware of the danger that may be associated with playing outside in the neighborhood, they do not allow their children to do so as often.
Undoubtedly, considering the fact that boys and girls do not have the opportunity to frequently enjoy games outside, they find ways to entertain themselves indoors. All-time classic toys such as dolls, building blocks and plushies have been their companions. However, another strong player has entered the game. And that is the digital device. The young generation is now found to spend most of its time online using different devices — smartphones, tablets, laptops, and game consoles.
Kids now prefer smaller groups of friends
Playing out of home is very beneficial for kids. They can run, jump, play games like hide and seek, and all of those can help them increase their physical skills. They move, they’re active, they stay healthy. They can also make new friends in their neighborhood and that’s how they have a chance to enhance their social skills. However, Generation Alpha grows its social skills differently. And technology definitely plays a role here.
Kids have been more selective with their friends. Being online has made them actually choose who their friends will be. Creating friendships digitally does not allow children to interact with their peers in a similar way as they would in a face to face situation. It all starts by clicking buttons. Kids learn how to choose their friends out of a huge network based on their online characteristics. At the same time, they decline boys and girls around them as it becomes a very easy thing to do. As a result, they play in smaller groups and in the end, it is more difficult for them to play outside with many kids because they simply do not want to compromise and engage with them. However, toymakers could try to change that by following the ‘be yourself’ trend in their games.
Generation Alpha is too busy
Today’s parents want their offspring to get involved in various activities from their early childhood. They believe that they can learn things better when they start at a young age. And that is certainly true. However, new parents tend to lose balance by pushing their kids to engage in too many different activities from a very early age. For example, fathers and mothers are prouder of their children when they start learning to read at age two rather than six. But does that make any sense?
Too many activities put pressure on kids which decreases their creativity. More than that, since they have to prioritize actions that are supposed to educate them, they tend to have less and less time to play. And that declines their motivation for outdoor time too.
What happened to playing outside is something parents should consider and start encouraging their kids on playing outdoors more. Because, play is the most elementary form of learning. It prepares kids for things that they might need in their future lives. Playing outside, but also collaborative play and pretend play are some good examples that can educate children from a young age and contribute to happy adulthood.