A total of 184 parents and 32 teachers and caretakers from Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Norway and Portugal have completed the MLO questionnaires regarding the importance of outdoor play. Children were observed using play observational grids while they were playing outside at the preschools. They were also interviewed about their play spaces after drawing them.
Overall, traffic is the major barrier pointed out by parents (64.7%) to allow their children to play outside. When analyzing the results by countries, traffic is the most reported barrier in Croatia (58.1), Estonia (65.9%) and Norway (53.3%). In Portugal, stranger danger (80.6%), traffic (67.7%) and media alerts about children being injured, lost or kidnapped (61.3%) were the three most referred barriers. The most cited barriers by Greek parents are poor play facilities (80%), traffic (77.1%) and lack of playspaces (74.3%). Norwegian parents point out very few barriers for children to play outside when compared to the southern countries. In fact, Norway is the only country where lack of playspaces and fear of the child getting injured is not mentioned by any parent. In Estonia, fear of getting injured was also not reported by any parent. Parents who don’t allow their children to play in the same way and spaces as they did, consider the society less safe than before (87.3%). This percentage is overwhelming in Portugal and Greece (100% in each country), followed by Croatia (83.3%) and Estonia (81%) and is scarcely referred in Norway (33.3%).
The cultural differences between northern and southern European countries regarding parental barriers to children’s play outside, may result from different parental perspectives on children’s risky play and contact with the outdoor environment.