Today’s children often seem overprotected by smothering (and fearful) parents. The growth of urban gangs means that many city kids are often too frightened to leave their postcodes, rarely venturing out of their neighbourhood and sticking to the same route to and from school. In the evening, they are left slumped indoors, staring at screens.
That’s such a different existence to my own childhood in a working class area of inner London – my sister and I would play skipping and hopping games chalked out on our street in west London for hours. Simple pleasures like that have virtually vanished as traffic calming bumps and parking schemes cover residential streets, and most open spaces have signs banning ball games. Playing fields have been sold off for housing. No wonder we’ve got overweight kids – three-quarters of children spend less time outdoors than prisoners.
This week another survey threw up the depressing statistic that one in four children in the UK have never been to the seaside or swum in the sea. How sad – one of life’s greatest joys is to run onto a beach and paddle in the waves.
Most summer weekends, my family would pile into our secondhand car and drive to the seaside on the south coast: Camber Sands, Worthing, Bognor and Hastings. We’d build sandcastles and eat egg sandwiches that tasted of gritty sand, carried on the brisk breezes.
Cheap air travel to hotter climates abroad has seen a decline in family trips like the ones I enjoyed in my childhood, where goosepimples and freezing water were all part of the fun.
Swimming in the sea is still one of my greatest pleasures, and I thank my parents for bringing me up to be tough. Why don’t charities fund a trip to the British seaside for every schoolkid in the summer term? Children need to be encouraged to get wet, dirty and play, and there’s no better place than a British beach.
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