The good old days when children were free to play | Letters

Keith Potter and Robert Howard reflect on the changing nature of children’s play

Reading your article (How one UK charity is reclaiming children’s right to roam, 26 April) set me thinking about the age that I was able to do things without my parents, and the freedom and independence that kids are allowed nowadays.

In January 1948, on my first day of school, aged five, I flatly refused to let my mother take me to school, and went with a friend from over the road and no adult accompanying us. This is how it went every day from then on.

I played with friends out in the road, in nearby woods and in the recreation ground without ever having an adult near me. When, at the age of nine, I spent a school term in Brussels, I had no friends with me, so I used to go out for the day alone, riding on the trams all over the city. When I was 11, I went to a Scouts summer camp, during which we had two “days out” where we were allowed to go where we liked and do what we liked, the only proviso being that we could not go out alone. I remember on the first one going with my friend Chris on the bus from near Hastings to Rye.

All is not lost though. A year or two ago, I was going to Plymouth on the train and opposite me a group of three boys, whom I would have judged to be about 10, were travelling on their own.
Keith Potter
Gunnislake, Cornwall

My children and granddaughters, the latter now 32 and 28, were let loose on their own in the seven-acre park outside our house in inner-city Nottingham from an early age. They were happy times. While I was travelling alone on buses between Wembley and Kingsbury in London from the age of four in 1948, my granddaughters were 12 and eight before I gave them a fiver and left it to them as to where they went. They chose to catch a bus into the city centre and visit McDonald’s.

I tell this story because Michael Rosen is so right about free play for children (Skip the kindergarten cop routine: free play is vital for young children, 23 April) and how the lack of it puts so many at a disadvantage when they become young adults. We may find that, by not exposing children to risk, we are creating adults with a dangerously false perspective on what liberty is, having had no experience of it. I am convinced it is a right that children with the freedom to roam learn for themselves.
Robert Howard
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

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