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Feature Story

July 2017


Survey Examines Parents' View of Play

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By Deborah L. Vence

A new survey published by the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) showed the importance of play behavior and parents' opinions about it.

The 2017 Survey on Play queried 1,000 parents on the subject of children's play. The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of IPEMA, a playground safety certification organization, and the Voice of Play initiative. Results revealed the frequency of play in children's lives and generational differences among parents.

"When parents think of playgrounds, they often think about kids running, jumping, climbing, sliding, swinging and having fun. IPEMA's members strive to provide equipment and surfacing that engages children in social, imaginative and physically rewarding fun play experiences," said Tom Norquist, marketing committee chair at IPEMA. "With this research, we hope to shed light on current parental attitudes and habits toward play, and use this as an opportunity for further education on why play is an essential tool in every child's development."

Some of the results showed the following:

  • 96 percent of parents agree that play outside of the classroom enhances learning that occurs in school.
  • 94 percent of parents agree that children who play outside are more likely to be healthy, well-rounded adults.
  • 65 percent of parents believe children can learn more by playing outside than sitting in a classroom.
  • Millennial parents are 73 percent more likely to schedule their kids' playtime, compared to boomers' 45 percent.

One of the biggest takeaways from the survey had to do with the differences between each generation and how millennial parents have different attitudes on play than boomers.

"Millennials' children are spending more time inside partially because the millennials themselves spent more time inside with technology and fear, which causes the helicopter parent syndrome. Culturally, the massive embrace of technology and use of cell phones is now an epidemic, and screen time competes with nature," Norquist said.

Other points from the survey revealed that kids, on average, are playing four days per week, which is good news for parents and kids alike, as research verifies the multiple benefits of play—including children's physical, social, emotional and cognitive well-being. The survey also uncovered generational differences among parents in play attitudes and behaviors, highlighting an opportunity for increased education on why play is critically important.

Four in 10 respondents (42 percent) indicated that their kids play four to six days per week, 30 percent play one to three days per week, 24 percent play every day and 4 percent claim their children do not play at all.

Parents who had four or more children were more likely to have kids that play outside seven days per week (31 percent). The percentage of younger children who spend time playing seven days per week is significantly higher, with 26 percent of children being less than 5 years old, 29 percent being 5 to 9 years old and 18 percent being 10 or older, stressing the importance for children of all ages to play no matter their age.

Eighty percent of parents said their children enjoy playing outdoors significantly more than playing indoors, with 41 percent agreeing strongly with this statement.

Additionally, more than four in 10 parents (44 percent) said their children play outside for two to three hours, while 24 percent play less than one hour, 21 percent play one hour and 12 percent play more than three hours. Children with millennial parents play outdoors the most, on average 2.23 hours, while generation X (1.85 hours) and baby boomer parents (1.94 hours) said their kids log less time outside playing.


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