One in four Aussie kids doesn’t have anywhere to play at home, according to new research commissioned as the national average house size falls to a 17-year low.
Almost half of the nation’s children are falling short of the minimum three hours’ “offline” play a day recommended by leading child development expert Dr Brendon Hyndman.
It comes as the average size of an Australian freestanding house has fallen to 17-year lows, according to data commissioned by CommSec from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The average new house built in 2018/19 was 228.8sq m, down 1.3 per cent on a year ago to the smallest house size since 2001/02.
Australia is still building some of the biggest houses in the world, but, on average, US houses are bigger by about 5 per cent.
The ACT built the biggest houses in Australia in 2018/19, ahead of Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland. The average house in NSW is 10 per cent smaller than Victoria.
A quarter of the 1036 parents polled in the nationally representative survey for Ikea said the size of their home meant there wasn’t enough room for any play, with 22 per cent saying they would play more if they had a bigger house; 75 per cent of respondents identified homework taking priority over play time, making it the key barrier to play identified.
Dr Hyndman said parents should consider how they could “make more processes, activities and tasks” more playful as one of three ways the minimum amount of play could be hit.
This was alongside schools and parents each setting at least one hour of free play time aside, separate from eating, each day — when devices were switched off.
Ikea Australia’s home furnishing direction leader Christine Gough encouraged parents looking to maximise use of limited space to consider what could adapt to kids as they grew.
“Think fun, functional and flexible space … injecting colour or a theme into the room is another great way to create a space that they will enjoy spending time in,” she said.
The Swedish property giant said making chores more fun by playing music, using song or opportunities for imitation could make mundane tasks more enticing and fun.
But of course, play requires only a little space if you have a big imagination.
The survey was conducted online between 18-22 October using a nationally representative sample of 1036 Australian parents 18-plus years with a child 0-12 years.
IKEA’s The Real Play Coalition, formed with other groups including The LEGO Foundation, has more than 200 activity ideas for parents to play with their children on its website.
Ikea spokeswoman Melissa Miller said the company believed “play was a basic human need, not just for kids, but for all of us” and “home was the most important playground”.
“With one of the barriers to play being a lack of ideas of what to do, we’ve created a series of play worksheets for children of all ages between 0-12 to give parents inspiration for how to incorporate more play into their everyday,” she said.