Parks are places where children make their own decisions, explore their imaginations and expand their abilities. Daxiao Productions/Shutterstock

Debra Flanders Cushing, Queensland University of Technology; Janelle MacKenzie, Queensland University of Technology; Laurie Buys, Queensland University of Technology; Stewart Trost, Queensland University of Technology, and Tracy Lynn Washington, Queensland University of Technology

Well-designed suburban parks could be an antidote to helicopter parenting. As well as giving kids much-needed time outdoors being active, suburban parks offer kids opportunities to decide what activities they do, new research shows. It’s an ideal opportunity for parents to let go of their task-focused daily agendas, even if just for a little while.

Helicopter parenting, or intensive parenting, includes anticipating and solving children’s problems, limiting their risks and enrolling them in many structured activities. Yet this approach often does not lead to positive outcomes for children .

Read more: Too much love: helicopter parents could be raising anxious, narcissistic children

For some families, letting kids take control of their activities is likely a shift from parents’ daily routines of continuously reminding children about chores, homework and bedtime. The constant list of tasks and rules can get tiring, leaving both frustrated and potentially resorting to unhealthy behaviours. Although some children can excel with a “highly driven schedule”, for many it can be a source of stress and anxiety.

Play in general allows children to be imaginative and develop physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. It’s especially true for unstructured free play. This may also offer parents a glimpse into their children’s world and enable them to provide nurturing guidance, instead of strict rules.

For our research, we interviewed adults visiting 12 parks within the Moreton Bay Regional Council area in Southeast Queensland, Australia. A total of 417 brief interviews were completed over four months during the 2017-18 summer.

What has the research found?

According to the parents, grandparents and caregivers interviewed, kids decide what to do when they go to a park. Many indicated they watch over or play with the children, but they let them make the decisions about their activities.

I take their lead. I just let them do what they want to do.

Some parents and caregivers said time at the park was “their time”, meaning the kids had free time to do what they pleased. “She’s the boss at the park,” one said. Playing in the park was a good opportunity for children to make decisions and simply enjoy themselves:

We’re here for them, so they can pretty much do what they want.

As a mostly unstructured activity, visiting a park is an opportunity for parents and caregivers to allow children to make independent decisions in a relatively controlled and contained environment, which allows for some risk-taking and experimentation.

Equipment that enables children to take small risks may help extend their skills and self-confidence. Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

However, safety is still a concern. It was clear from the adults interviewed that children could do what they would like “as long as it’s safe”. As one parent stated:

The kids [decide], unless, of course, they go and try and climb up on that stupid thing. I’ll say, get down, let’s not break an arm today.

What makes for an appealing park?

A wide variety of equipment helps ensure children don’t get bored. ilkercelik/Shutterstock

Not all parks are created equal, nor do they all attract local residents. Playgrounds were the primary areas of the parks where children actively played (82%), followed by sports fields (17%) and pathways (14%).

Offering many different playing opportunities was an important characteristic of a park, participants suggested. A wide variety of equipment helps maintain children’s attention and interest, which prevents them from getting bored.

Some parents also suggested a variety of options allowed children to attempt a range of physical skills and provided enough space to run around, move and expend energy. As one parent said:

I know that we’ve taken them to playgrounds and parks before when there’s only been two or three different things to play on. He gets bored in half an hour. Whereas here he’s quite content just roaming around. Different activities, different swings, climbing apparatus and different colours are always good things as well.

Equipment that requires children to take small risks, which parents can oversee, may help extend children’s skills and self-confidence. For example, climbing was one of the skills that adults “taught” the children while at the park. This enabled children to develop gross motor skills and weigh up risks.

Creating parks for a range of ages is important, as is providing variety for each age group. These findings represent a small portion of a larger study on designing suburban parks for groups of all ages. One of the goals is design recommendations for parks that better meet the needs of all ages for healthy, active living.The Conversation

Debra Flanders Cushing, Associate Professor in Landscape Architecture, Queensland University of Technology; Janelle MacKenzie, Research Project Officer, School of Design, Queensland University of Technology; Laurie Buys, Professor, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology; Stewart Trost, Professor of Physical Activity and Health, Queensland University of Technology, and Tracy Lynn Washington, Lecturer and Researcher in Urban and Regional Planning, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Order by: 
Per page:
  • There are no comments yet
08.05.2019 (08.05.2019)
0 Subscribers
All Articles by The_Conversation_Australia
0 votes
Visually expressing painful memories and feelings can help let things go. People with dementia can flourish and show creativity in ways they, their caregivers and loved ones never thought possible. Under the guidance of a trained therapist, creative arts therapies use painting, drama, dance and music to help improve quality of life for people with dementia. Around 50 million people worldwide have dementia and it’s on the rise. The condition affects the brain and can result in memory loss and inability to carry out everyday activities, recognise faces or remember words.…
09.05.2019 · From The_Conversation_Australia
The Age newspaper recently highlighted the issue of so-called “helicopter parenting” at universities. The report talked of parents contacting lecturers to ask about their adult children’s grades, sitting in on meetings with course coordinators and repeatedly phoning academics to inquire about students’ progress.
08.05.2019 · From The_Conversation_Australia
New Zealand’s long-awaited zero carbon bill will create sweeping changes to the management of emissions, setting a global benchmark with ambitious reduction targets for all major greenhouse gases. The bill includes two separate targets – one for the long-lived greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, and another target specifically for biogenic methane, produced by livestock and landfill waste.
08.05.2019 · From The_Conversation_Australia