UCL News


UCL in the News: How Children Use Their Local Environment

30 May 2007

A joint project between the UCL Centre for Transport Studies, the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), the UCL Bartlett School of Planning and UCL Psychology has found interesting differences in the way children's spatial behaviour changes depending on where they are, who they are with and what they are doing.

The project, entitled 'Children's Activities, Perception and Behaviour in the Local Environment' (CAPABLE), was conducted in response to a number of recent changes in children's lifestyles, such as increased car reliance, fewer opportunities for 'free play' and greater adult supervision. …

Project leader Professor Roger Mackett (UCL Centre for Transport Studies) said: "The changing perceptions of risk have partly led to the move from free play to organised activities for children. In the past, children would play out in the streets or walk to the local park. Now they are taken to football lessons, dance classes and so on, and usually by car. Many children have their after-school time filled with these activities, leaving little time for free play or going out gaining experience from making decisions about where to go and whether it is safe to cross the road, and form social interaction with other children." …

Professor Mackett said: "Being with an adult affects children's spatial behaviour. They tend to walk faster, more energetically and straighter when with an adult. Without an adult they tend to 'potter about' in a much more exploratory way. Whilst speed has its benefits, there is a need for children to explore the environment at their own pace, gaining experience and learning about the world."

He concluded: "Overall, there is much to be learnt, but we hope that the increased understanding that this research contributes helps children to use their local environment more, and so lead healthier and happier lives."

Science Daily