Bumps and bruises are ‘good for children’

Children should be allowed to play dangerous games and risk minor injuries as part of a wider lesson in life, the organisation responsible for avoiding accidents has said.

By scraping knees, grazing elbows and getting bruises, children learn “valuable lifelong lessons” that will help them to avoid more serious injuries in later life.

Peter Cornall, head of leisure safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “We need to ask ourselves whether it is better for a child to break a wrist falling out of a tree, or to get a repetitive strain wrist injury at a young age from using a computer or video games console.

“Parents and children must not be frightened about venturing outside. When children spend time in the great outdoors, getting muddy, getting wet, getting stung by nettles, they learn important lessons – what hurts, what is slippery, what you can trip over or fall from. We need to try to break down the perceived safety barriers to playing outside. A step towards achieving this can be the creation of wild areas for natural play within parks.

function pictureGalleryPopup(pubUrl,articleId) { var newWin = window.open(pubUrl+’template/2.0-0/element/pictureGalleryPopup.jsp?id=’+articleId+’&&offset=0&&sectionName=Health’,’mywindow’,’menubar=0,resizable=0,width=615,height=655′); } “For example, there could be places to paddle on the banks of streams, climb trees and build dens. If these areas can be created within a supervised park environment in urban areas, parental fears should start to be allayed.”

Mr Cornall said that the disappearance of Madeleine McCann would heighten parents’ fears. “You can see why parents are so concerned because of the fears highlighted in the media. But it’s not right. It’s detrimental to children’s development,” he said. “It also means that when they get to 13 or 14 when they are allowed out, they more or less have an accident straight away because they suddenly have all this freedom.”

RoSPA, which is due to hold its International Play Safety Conference on Thursday, wants parents to discuss risk and play with their children.

Research for the Children’s Society suggests that 43 per cent of adults think children should not be allowed out with friends until they are at least 14. Mr Cornall added: “When children are able to interact with the world around them, they learn to push their boundaries and develop their assessment skills – rarely, for example, will children climb above where they feel comfortable.

“We believe that children can learn valuable lifelong lessons, particularly about risks and how to deal with them, from playing in the natural environment, and that parents have to accept that their children may get injured. Bumps, bruises and grazes are not serious injuries and are part of growing up.”

However, not all parents agreed with the initiative. Tony Wilkens, 37, from Kingstanding, Birmingham, said that he would not want his son, Michael, 12, and daughter Emma, 8, to put themselves at risk. He said: “I find it astonishing that RoSPA, of all people, would say this. It’s irresponsible. Surely they are meant to be preventing accidents, not arguing which bones are acceptable to break or which injury is good for them.”

The conference will take place at Loughborough University. As well as discussions around natural play opportunities, it will include a workshop on the debate about facilities for equipment such as mini motorbikes and skateboards.


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