Malone, Karen, 2007, The bubble-wrap generation: children growing up in walled gardens, Environmental Education Research, 13(4), 513-527.
Children in middle class Australia, and many western countries around the world experience restricted opportunities to engage in free play in their neighbourhood streets and parks. The impact of this has been a drastic decrease in children’s independent mobility and environmental play. Recent research has focused on the physical environment of neighbourhoods’ in an attempt to understand how they might be designed to encourage children’s play and increase their environmental learning. This paper explores these same issues but from a different perspective. That is, to explain some of the changes in childhood environmental behaviours I explore children and parent relationships, in particular, the phenomena of ‘bubble-wrapping’ children to appease the anxieties of some middle class parents. I acknowledge when making these claims that parenting is a complex and highly individual enterprise with many variables, therefore this paper is only seeking to draw attention to a broad pattern of behaviour of a select group within society. I will conclude with an overview of some of the key attributes and competencies that are being lost when children lack independent mobility in their neighbourhoods and will subsequently argue why opening the front gates of our middle class suburbs is important to enhance children’s environmental learning.