Are children getting opportunities for balanced play?


(Part 1/2. Read the second article of this series on ‘Using the balanced play approach to promote your good toys’ here)


In a two-part series, we team up with The Entertainer, the Genius of Play™, and Theodora Children’s Charity to delve deeper into the UK and US’s play habits and look at the implications of this for the toy industry.



Did you know that three-quarters of children are missing out on essential active play opportunities, according to our international survey?

By not getting enough active play, children could be at greater risk of obesity and mental health problems, two of the biggest issues affecting children in the US and UK today.

Toy companies and retailers can provide parents with good toys that support a balanced approach to play – helping give children happy, healthy childhoods while also standing out in a crowded market by communicating the benefits of their products.

Report: Why children in the UK and the US are not getting a balanced approach to play

Nearly two in ten children are obese

Obesity puts children at risk of multiple health problems as they get older, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

In fact, around two in ten school-aged children are now clinically obese across the US and the UK. Childhood obesity has increased dramatically over the last few generations, more than tripling in the US since the 1970s.

One in ten children have a mental health disorder

Mental health disorders are also growing in both the US and the UK, with around one in ten children meeting the criteria for at least one emotional, behavioural, or hyperactivity disorder.

Mental health disorders can impact children throughout life, with negative consequences for children’s relationships, education and learning, school attendance, physical health, and offending behaviour.

READ: Prevalence of obesity amongst adults and youths in the US

READ: Health survey for the UK

Why play is crucial for good physical and mental health

There is no magic pill that will instantly reverse these trends in physical and mental health.

But perhaps it’s no coincidence that as children’s outdoor free play has massively declined, childhood obesity and mental health problems have arisen.

For instance, eight out of ten UK adults say they used to play in the streets outside their home regularly during childhood. But this has more than halved in recent generations, with less than three in ten children now playing frequently in their local streets.

According to our research, more than two-thirds of one to four-year-olds, and three-quarters of five to 12 year-olds don’t spend the suggested proportion of their leisure time playing actively and freely.

Because it is so important to holistic development, our Balanced Play Pyramid recommends that the majority of children’s leisure time is spent on this type of unstructured play. With parents concerned that their children are not playing outside enough, there is an opportunity for manufacturers to produce toys that encourage children to play outside, as well as making products that promote active play indoors.

As an industry, we have a responsibility to promote healthy child development and at Fundamentally Children we are always keen to support those brands who put the child’s needs first. Read how to use the Balanced Play model in your marketing and product development in the next article in this series.

Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn with #BalancingPlay.

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