My teenage son’s bike is his pride and joy so he was even more stunned than me by a new report that says one in ten of today’s children can’t ride one.
And that’s not the only shocker. The survey (conducted by charity Play England) reveals that parents are so over-protective that only one child in five plays outside every day while a third have never climbed a tree or built a den.
“Playing outside, chalking on the pavement, climbing trees and riding your bike are simple pleasures that many of today’s children are missing out on,” says Catherine Prisk, director of Play England.
If we carry on like this, our generation of parents are in danger of turning children into mollycoddled wimps. We drive them everywhere, monitor their every move and wrap them in cotton wool. We worry about everything from the dangers of online chatrooms to the risks of climbing trees. Some schools have even banned conkers because they could be used as “offensive weapons,” while others say games like Stuck in The Mud and British Bulldog are too dangerous for the playground.
My own childhood was far more carefree. When I was little, I was out every day of the holidays – building dens in the woods with my friends, biking hands-free round the block and playing on the swings down the road.
But times have changed and protecting our children while giving them the chance to have fun and play outside is a tricky balance to strike.
I definitely veered on the over-protective side when my two children were little but as they grew up they wouldn’t have it. My daredevil son ended up in casualty several times every summer after attempting manoeuvres on his bike that would make a grown man tremble - let alone his mum. He got stuck up more trees than I’ve had hot dinners and when I took him for his first riding lesson at the age of five he emerged saying “I was the only one in the class who dared put my hand in the horse’s mouth!”