Evidence of a long-term and dramatic decline in children’s relationship with the outdoors is ‘overwhelming’ and urgent action is needed to bridge this growing gap before its too late, according to a new report published by the National Trust.
In his Natural Childhood report naturalist, author and TV producer Stephen Moss charts years of academic research and a steady stream of surveys on the subject, highlighting how a generation of children is finally losing touch with the natural world.
That’s why we’ve set up a two-month inquiry, facilitated by the National Trust, that will take evidence from leading experts and the public to look at how we can reconnect this and future generations of children with the natural world.
As Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, says: ““Getting outdoors and closer to nature has all sorts of benefits for our children. It keeps them fit, they can learn about the world around them and most of all its fun. The National Trust is working alongside Arla, the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and film-makers Green Lions, to organise a summit this summer to bring together a range of experts to develop a roadmap for reconnecting children and nature.
“That’s why it’s so worrying that so many children today don’t have the opportunity to experience the outdoors and nature. Building a den, picking flowers, climbing trees – the outdoors is a treasure trove, rich in imagination. It brings huge benefits that we believe every child should have the opportunity to experience. And there are huge costs when they don‘t.
During the last decade conservation groups, academics, social and health professionals and the media have charted the rise of so-called ‘cotton-wool kids’ and countless examples of what is going wrong.
The statistics reveal that things have changed dramatically in just one generation:
- Fewer than ten per cent of kids play in wild places; down from 50 per cent a generation ago
- The roaming radius for kids has declined by 90 per cent in one generation (thirty years)
- Three times as many children are taken to hospital each year after falling out of bed, as from falling out of trees
- A 2008 study showed that half of all kids had been stopped from climbing trees, 20 per cent had been banned from playing conkers or games of tag
Authority figures and layers of bureaucracy have combined with a climate of ‘don’t do that’ to create an environment where fewer and fewer children play in the outdoors. This has led to a situation where kids having fun in the outdoors are painted as showing signs of anti social behaviour.
The research shows that capturing children before they enter the teenage years is crucial with the research clearly showing if you get kids hooked before they reach twelve years old, you’ll create a lifelong passion for the environment.