Kamik, the Canadian footwear and apparel manufacturer,  announced new survey result findings that indicate a significant decrease in outdoor play among children ages 3-12.

An overwhelming majority of mothers agreed that their best childhood memories took place outdoors while playing with a friend or a sibling, recalling these memories elicit strong feelings of joy, freedom and a sense of adventure (75 percent in America and more than 60 percent in Canada). Ironically, their own children are not having the same experiences in today’s hectic, over-scheduled environment.

American and Canadian mothers readily admitted they spent significantly more time engaged in moments of outside free play, defined as unstructured, child-initiated activity that allows kids to develop their imaginations while exploring the world around them, often out of the view and supervision of adults.

Key survey findings indicate:

  • American children spend 35 percent less time playing outside freely than their parents did. Sixty-five percent of parents surveyed said they played outside every day during their childhood, while only 30 percent of their children do the same today. Even more alarming, nearly one in five kids today play outside only once a week or less. Toronto showed the highest proportion, with 35 percent of children playing outside once a week or less.
  • On average, American children between 3-12 years old participate in five structured activities a week. Over-scheduling and the social pressure to keep young people occupied with extracurricular activities is contributing to the decline. In fact, over 80 percent of children in America and 90 percent in Toronto are registered to at least one structured activity per week.
  • Weather is another leading outdoor play deterrent. Thirty-one percent of parents in America and 18 percent of parents in Canada noted inclement weather as the reason why their children don’t spend more time outside.
    The over-scheduling is also coming at a cost, literally. Nearly one in three (32 percent) Canadian families agree funding their children’s extracurricular activities is putting a strain on family finances.
  • While the results are jarring, especially given the recent recommendation to increase children’s unstructured play from the American Academy of Pediatrics, not all findings are trending negative. In fact, the survey found that kids are still spending more time playing outside (81 percent play outdoors in their free time) than they are playing on computers and tablets (69 percent).

“When children have adequate freedom and time to play, they develop all of the basic skills that human beings everywhere must acquire: physical skills, social skills, emotional skills, constructive skills, creativity and logic,” said Dr. Peter Gray, research professor of psychology and author of “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.” “In adventurous outdoor play they build not just their heart, lungs and muscles but also their courage and resilience.”

To inspire conversation around the value of outside free play experiences, Kamik is igniting a social movement to #FreeYourPlay, a call to action for parents to step outside the overcrowded repetition of their family’s daily routine and rediscover an offline, no-agenda, creative balance with their kids through moments of unstructured, outside free play. Sparked from consumer insights that show today’s children are missing out on the unstructured, outside free play experiences their parents enjoyed as kids, Kamik’s #FreeYourPlay initiative encourages families to rediscover the fun and freedom of unstructured play by providing them with accessible, simple ideas to help their children develop their creativity through playing outside, freely.

Consumers are invited to join the movement and share their own outside free play experiences on social media using #FreeYourPlay, and visit Kamik.com/FreeYourPlay for more information about the movement, including free play tips and inspiration.

About The Kamik Outside Free Play Survey

A global study commissioned by Kamik earlier this year surveyed parents of kids ages 3-12 in the U.S., Canada, Germany and Norway to gauge their relationship to Outside Free Play experiences compared with their children and determine the generational differences in youth free play experiences.

U.S. and Canada Survey Data Compilation–2,002 women ages 24+ identifying as mothers with children ages 3-12 agreed to take a survey about both their personal play patterns as youth, and their children’s current play patterns. The survey was conducted from August 3 to August 16, 2018 by market research firm Ipsos on behalf of Kamik.