More than one in nine children in England have not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least 12 months, according to a two-year government-funded study. Another equally shocking report found that the average British child spent less time outdoors than adult prisoners: 74% of children spent less than an hour in the fresh air, almost a third of children play outdoors for 30 minutes or less a day and one child in five doesn’t play outside at all.
And yet children who regularly play outdoors have been shown to be happier, healthier, more confident and less anxious.
Andy Simpson, from The Wild Network, a movement to get more kids (and their parents!) outside and reconnecting with nature, says: “The tragic truth is that kids have lost touch with nature and the outdoors in just one generation.
“With many more parents becoming concerned about the dominance of screen time in their children’s lives, and growing scientific evidence that a decline in active time is bad news for the health and happiness of our children, we all need to become marketing directors for nature.”
Playing outside improves children’s health, happiness and self confidence
While obesity is the most visible symptom of lack of physical activity, studies from around the world show being active outdoors produces significant improvements in psychological and emotional wellbeing in children – even improving their learning and ability to concentrate. A study by the University of Essex found just five minutes “green exercise” can produce rapid improvements in mental wellbeing and self-esteem, with the greatest benefits experienced by the young.
Free and unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus, determination and gross motor skills. Climbing a tree, for example, is about measuring risk, working out a strategy to get up into the branches, learning to trust and push your body – and the glee of…