At a time when a Hastings dad has launched a campaign urging children to spend more time playing outdoors and engaging with nature, it has been revealed Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates.
The information comes from a survey by The Wild Network which has found the extent to which time playing in parks, wood and fields has shrunk. A fifth of the children did not play outside at all on an average day, the poll found.
Experts warn that active play is essential to the health and development of children, but that parents’ fears, lack of green spaces and the lure of digital technology is leading youngsters to lead enclosed lives.
Mark Sear, from the Wild Network, said: “The truth is we are enclosing our children. We are stifling their ability to be free, to be at their best as children and it is having significant impacts.” He said increasing obesity and lower mental wellbeing in children was linked to a lack of physical activity.”
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Research by the National Trust has shown that children are now spending only half as much time playing outdoors as their parents’ generation did.
The survey, conducted in 2016, showed that 84% of parents believe that playing outdoors makes their children more imaginative and creative, while 96% felt it was important for children to have a connection with nature.
Hastings based father of two Luke Funnell wants to change attitudes about playing outside and said: “As a father I feel saddened that my children will grow up in a world where there is no one to play outside with. I know most parents feel the same, we want them outside more but there is no one to play with.
Parents often tell me that it is not safe outside anymore; this is just not true, in fact with the exception of increased road traffic, it is as ‘safe’ as it ever has been. But the same cannot be said for the massively increased risk children are exposed to on the internet.
“I want my children to engage personally with the natural world, to smell it, touch it and taste it, to breathe it in. I want them to have an emotional connection with nature. I want them to grow up with a respect and love for the world around them and to understand their own place as part of nature. “As a childcare professional of more than 20 years, as an outdoor educator, but most importantly as a dad I feel I have a responsibility not only to try and rewild my own children, but to encourage us all to rewild our children and ourselves, parents and communities. “We need to get outside, to play and engage in nature, to let our children be free, free to explore, free to discover, free to make their own mistakes, free to be wild.
“Please join me and get involved with Project Rewild. To find out more please contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.projectrewild.co.uk.”