Most of my childhood memories are about playing games – rounders, bulldogs charge, endless cycling and roller skating, water fights – on the street with the rest of the kids and I promise you I wouldn’t change them for the world.
But according to a survey by the National Trust, a quarter of children spend less than half an hour outdoors each day and 90% of children have never taken part in traditional outdoor activities such as playing conkers or building a raft. I find it all a bit sad really.
And it echoes a survey we did ourselves two years ago where we looked at the habits of today’s children compared with grandparents. We found that children go to bed later, eat later and prefer playing in to playing out, compared to kids back in 1952, and it is having a huge effect on their ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Did you know, for instance, that seven to 14-year-old children go to bed almost 40 minutes later than their grandparents did? They are also much more likely to snack on crisps and fizzy drinks before bedtime than their grandparents who had cups of tea or milky drinks. However these days kids are more likely to sleep on a new bed in a room of their own.
Further research has also found that up to two-thirds of children do not get enough sleep and have missed out on as much as 4,500 hours by their seventh birthday. Children who sleep less also tend to eat more which increases the risk of obesity and related health problems later in life. The research also found that one in 10 never read their children a bedtime story. Instead children fell asleep to television shows, computer games or videos. More than half of the parents said their children had TVs in their bedrooms.
So while it’s great that we are investing in a good bed for them to sleep in (a comfortable supportive bed is the foundation of good sleep) it’s equally important to ensure that today’s youngsters eat better, get more fresh air and exercise and turn off those gadgets which in turn will have a massive, positive impact on their quality of sleep.
Let’s face it, do we really want our children’s childhood memories to be of playing Angry Birds?