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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Children's 'right to play'
Children made a giant daisy chain in protest
Children campaigned against a "culture of caution", which charities fear is restricting youngsters' experience of play and stifling their social and physical development.

The protest saw the children make a giant daisy chain, play with yo-yos and ride skateboards and bicycles - activities which many schools and public playgrounds have banned, research suggests.

Survey of 500 children
45% can't play with water
36% can't climb trees
27% can't use climbing equipment
23% can't ride bikes and skateboards

Source: Children's Society and Children's Play Council
The survey of 500 children up to the age of 15 by the Children's Society and Children's Play Council found many thought public playgrounds were boring and unadventurous.

The two charities also found that traditional childhood games from daisy-chain making to doing handstands had been banned for fear children might catch germs or injure themselves.

'Litigious society'

Now the charities are calling on every council and school in Britain to carry out a "daisy chain audit" to uncover the extent of bans and restrictions on children's play.

Jean Gemmell, general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT), told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that when she was head of a large school she had to be "very careful about the corporate responsibility and that we live in a litigious society".

She said the PAT had passed a motion last week to look at ways of teaching children a form of risk analysis, rather than risk avoidance.

children making daisy chains
Danergous daisy chains: Could children pick up germs?
Deputy general secretary of the NASUWT Chris Keates said: "In an increasingly litigious society, where the concept of a genuine accident has virtually disappeared, it is understandable that schools err on the side of caution."

"It is easy for those who do not bear the onerous responsibilities schools have for children's safety to criticise them for responding in this way," said Ms Keates.

"Such criticisms might be better directed at the seemingly growing number of ambulance-chasing solicitors, operating on a no-win-no-fee basis, who encourage parents to make claims for even the most minor incident.

To mark National Playday on Wednesday, the Children's Society and Children's Play Council asked play providers to look again at what is on offer in schools and parks.

If traditional games - such as tag and conkers - are banned, councils and schools are urged to consider whether this is in the best interest of children.

'Take a chance'

The theme for the fifteenth National Playday was "take a chance on play" and more than 100,000 youngsters took part in events across the country.

Penny Dean, a director of the Children's Society, said: "We are asking councils and schools to look at what activities children can't take part in."

girls playing
Should children be more exposed to risk?

"Where there are bans, or equipment removed, we want adults to question whether this is necessary.

"Children must be allowed to take risks in safe and well managed places," she said.

Tim Gill, director of Children's Play Council, added: "We are not pointing the finger of blame for a growing culture of caution at any one group, but individuals and organisations have an important role in making play exciting."

Otherwise, children might go and play somewhere else that was more dangerous, he told Today.

The campaign comes as experts grow increasingly concerned that restricting children's play may stifle their social and physical development and contribute to the growing levels of childhood obesity.

The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"There are about 40,000 playground accidents in the UK each year"
Jean Gemmell, Professional Association of Teachers
"It would be better to teach children a form of risk assessment rather than risk avoidance"
Tim Gill, Children's Play Council
"Children are saying there's not much that's exciting for them in playgrounds"

Over cautious?
Are schools right to restrict children's play?
See also:

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