Playborhood Survey I: Kids Aren’t Playing Much, and Parents Aren’t Happy About It

[NOTE: This is the first in a series of four articles on the Playborhood Survey. See Playborhood Survey: Who Responded to read about how we solicited responses and who responded. The survey is now closed. If you’d like, you can respond to the same survey questions, for future analysis, here.]

Children of respondent parents play very little with other children in their neighborhoods, and that play is almost all supervised by adults. See the first chart below:

imageThe most common response to the question, “How many days per week do your children play with other children in your neighborhood?” is 0 days, with 39.2% of respondents. Taking the first two responses together, we can say that 71.2% of children play with other children in the neighborhood 2 days or less.

Next, we asked the same question, but with the phrase, “*without* adult supervision” added, and we found that the large majority of children never play outside without adult supervision. See the chart below:


Fully 83.4% of children don’t play outside in their neighborhoods without adult supervision. On the other end of the sample, only 7.8% do so 3 or more days per week – i.e. half the week or more.

It’s interesting to break out San Francisco Bay Area (“Bay Area”) respondents from the rest. Only 5.1% of children in the Bay Area play 3 or more days per week without adult supervision, but 15.6% of children outside the Bay Area do. So, while nowhere is playing without adult supervision often common, it’s three times more likely to happen outside the Bay Area than in the Bay Area.

Next, we asked parents if they wanted to see an increase, decrease, or no change in the number of days per week their children play. 82.3% said they would like to see an increase or substantial increase. See the chart below.


Finally, we asked parents who answered chose Increase or Increase Substantially for the previous question what accounts for the disparity between their ideal amount of neighborhood play and reality. The results are shown below:


The number one answer is “My child(ren) are too young to play with other children outside now, but I intend for them to do so in the next few years.” Indeed, as I indicated in Playborhood Survey: Who Responded, the average age of children of respondent parents was about 5-1/2, so many of these children are too young. However, most parents who checked that answer also checked other answers, so age isn’t the only issue for them.

The next most common answers, in descending order, are:

  1. Few or no children my child(ren)’s ages live close to us. (41.2%)
  2. I’m concerned about possible accidents with cars on the street. (37.2%)
  3. There are children my child(ren)’s ages who live close to us, but they rarely play outside. (35.8%)
  4. My child(ren)’s schedules conflict with those of other children, leaving little or no common time for play outside. (27.0%)
  5. I’m concerned about possible child abductions, sexual predators, or other criminal activity. (20.3%)

It’s interesting for us at Playborhood to note that all of these are “fixable” by moving to a neighborhood that ranks better on these criteria. In a future article, I’ll show how parents responded to questions about whether they would consider moving to a more play-friendly neighborhood.

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