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Outdoor play is imperative for growth

The letter sent by almost 300 teachers, psychologists, children's authors and other experts to The Daily Telegraph this week claiming over anxious parents, video games and a "test-driven" education system are robbing children of "vital" opportunities to play on their own outdoors again raises the growing concern about negative effects on children's mental health.

It is understandable that parents want to do their utmost to protect their children, but there is growing unease that by not allowing them to play and have experiences on their own, children are being damaged in the long-term.

Parents are rightly concerned about keeping their children safe. As well as the very real danger of traffic, there is great fear about "stranger danger", which often leaves them unwilling to allow their children out unsupervised. This has also led to well-meaning adults being wary of becoming involved in keeping safe children they do not know.

As a charity dedicated to children's welfare, Children 1st runs national training programmes and courses on child protection. However, we believe that people not procedures keep children safe, and that all of us have a responsibility to protect Scotland's children.

It is important that children and young people learn life skills, such as how to make decisions, deal with new experiences and assess risk, all of which are gained through appropriate levels of independence.

Parents should also remember that play need not involve expensive or sophisticated toys or equipment, but that spending time with their children is essential to making them feel loved and secure.

We all want to protect children. However, if by "protecting" them society is denying children the experiences that will help them grow into confident, well-adjusted adults, then it is not working in their interests.

Maggie Mellon

director of Children and Family Services, Children 1st

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