German children enjoy far more everyday freedom than their English peers

An interesting study about childhood play and freedom in different countries:

New research from the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) shows that only a quarter of English primary school children are allowed to walk to school alone – yet in Germany, three quarters are. It is easy to think that the decline in children’s freedom to play out of doors and get around on their own is an inevitable side effect of modern life. That is why international comparisons are so valuable: they can show us how things might be different…

It finds that the independent mobility of German children has also declined in the last 20 years, like that of their English peers – but nowhere near as much. In fact, if we were to wait for the independent mobility of German primary school children to fall to the level of their English peers, we would have to wait another 60 years, on current trends.

The report makes a strong case for the importance of children’s independent mobility. It is clearly a factor in children’s physical activity levels, and hence their levels of overweight and obesity. It is also relevant to children’s health, well-being, and more fundamentally to what a good childhood looks and feels like. It is revealing that research last year from the Children’s Society found that freedom of choice was the single most significant factor in influencing children’s overall levels of subjective well-being.

Read more in the full post on Rethinking Childhood. The point about how attitudes towards children used to be different was also illustrated in the Crouch End film I blogged about a few days ago.

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