This report presents findings on children's participation in free or low-cost organised summer activities during 2021 in Scotland. The Scottish Parents Omnibus survey asked parents a range of questions about motivations and barriers to taking part in summer activities and the benefits experienced by both parents and children.
The survey took place over the phone with a nationally representative sample of 1,004 parents across Scotland between 1 November and 28 November 202.
Overview of participation
- Overall, a third of families (32%) reported having at least one child who took part in free or low-cost summer activities.
- Participation was higher amongst families with 3+ children, families with younger children and those with higher incomes.
- Amongst children who had participated in activities, the majority spent 1 to 2 weeks doing so (33%). One in five (20%) parents said their child(ren) spent longer, two or more weeks.
- The most common type of activities involved sport or exercise (87%). The least commonly reported activity was music and theatre, which were part of 18% of activities parents in the survey reported.
- Food was provided in almost a third (28%) of free and low-cost activities children took part in.
- Children from families living in more deprived areas (by SIMD quintile) and children from families in no paid work, were more likely to have participated in activities that provided food.
Motivations and barriers to participation
- The most common reasons given by parents for their children taking part in free or low-cost organised activities were that they thought it would be good for their wellbeing (77%), because they thought they'd enjoy it (75%), because they wanted to go (74%) and because they wanted them to spend time with other children (73%).
- Those in the top and middle income brackets were most likely to have been motivated to use organised summer activities to allow them or their partner to work.
- In terms of reasons children had not taken part in any activities, the main barriers reported by parents were that they were not aware of any suitable activities in their area (33%) and their child/children not being interested in any activities available near them (24%).
- Around one in five (18%) of parents said that concern around transmission of Covid-19 had stopped their child participating in activities.
- Some parents also reported barriers around accessibility with 13% saying the timings did not suit, 12% stating that activities were not accessible for their child's needs and a small number (5%) feeling that activities were too expensive.
- The main barriers for those on lower income or living in more deprived areas (by SIMD quintile) were lack of awareness of activities in their area, or activities not being accessible for their child's needs.
Benefits for children
- Parents were generally positive about the benefits that taking part in free or low-cost summer activities had for their children. Main benefits reported were: more opportunities to play with other children their children's age (87%), more time doing physical activity (81%), being outdoors (73%) and improvements in how their child was feeling generally (72%). Over half of parents (55%) said that summer activities enabled their child to be able to try out new activities and over two in five (43%) said that it had helped their child to feel more ready for school.
- While children enjoying eating food as part of activities was the least commonly reported benefit, around one in five (21%) parents still reported this as a benefit of their child attending activities.
Benefits for parents
- The most commonly reported benefits for parents whose child/children had taken part in activities were: that it had improved their own mental wellbeing (49%) and that the activities had helped them improve their own relationship with their child (41%).
- Other benefits mentioned, albeit at lower levels included: being made aware of other services that might be useful to them or their child (27%), allowing them or their partner to work or study more (27%), saving money (24%), giving them the change to do other things (22%).
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