A quarter of children spend less than half an hour outdoors each day the National Trust has found.
More than half of youngsters aged seven to twelve years old spend less than an hour a day outside, while almost nine in ten children have never taken part in activities such as conkers or building a raft according to the charity’s research.
The trust said it had launched a campaign to ‘connect the cotton wool generation with nature’ by getting 200,000 children playing outside this summer. A poll of 1,000 parents and grand-parents found that 54% of children spend less than an hour outside each day, while 25% of seven to twelve year olds are outdoors for less than 30 minutes per day.
Mike Greenaway 62, Director of Play Wales, which raises awareness of children’s right to play, sees youngsters spending just a fraction of the several hours each day he would play for as a child growing up on the Epsom Downs in Surrey. Mr Greenaway said traffic growth, parents invading youngsters’ free time with structured activities, and dis-proportionate concerns about the threat of sex offenders have all eroded play.
Children also feel that they have no ‘legitimate’ place in public spaces- meaning if they see a group gathered on a street there is an inevitable perception that they are up to no good.
The parents of today’s children spent an average of two hours and 34 minutes outside each day in their youth, the survey found. More than half of the grand-parents (53%) spent more than three hours per day playing outside when they were aged seven to twelve, compared to 6% today.
Despite this, 85% of those surveyed said playing outside was one of their greatest childhood memories, according to Fly research.
The Charity Parent Network, based in Caerphilly which tries to shape services for families in South Wales said that of almost 7,000 children aged seven to twelve, found that 92% had never built a raft and 87% had never played conkers. Some 89% had not used a map or compass and 85% had not dammed a stream or explored a cave. The charity’s campaign ’50 things to do before you are 11 and three quarters’ is staging more than 1,000 activities over the coming months to encourage families to explore nature and the great outdoors.
Keith Towler, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said ‘What we really need to do as adults is to trust our instincts- to deliver a childhood for every child full of fun, hope, wonder and excitement.’
Helen Meech, assistant director for outdoors and engagement at the National Trust said ‘I’m sure that if nature had a voice it would say that it misses today’s children and wants to be part of their childhood adventures.’