Study reveals too many children in England are losing contact with nature

Some 12 per cent of children in England have not been to a local park, beach or any other natural environment in 12 months, a two year study reveals.
 
A Government survey, which questioned parents over a two year period has found too many children are not getting the chance to play in a park, walk in a wood or spend time in any natural environment.

The report on the survey, commissioned by Natural England, found children from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) households were less likely to frequently visit the natural environment (56 per cent), compared to children from other households (74 per cent).

Children from lower income households (65 per cent) were also less likely to visit natural settings frequently than those from wealthier households (77 per cent).

The report stated: 'The results are of significance in that they highlight clear social inequalities in how children are accessing natural environments, showing a clear link between the frequency at which children visit the natural environment and both their ethnicity and socio-economic status.' Regional differences were also discovered, with the percentage of children who never visit a natural environment or did so less than once a week being higher in London (38 per cent), the West Midlands (35 per cent) and the East Midlands (35 per cent) when compared to other English regions.

The Natural England report also found children were more likely to visit local places than places further away. The places visited most often by children were urban parks (48 per cent), playgrounds (28 per cent), playing fields (26 per cent) and country parks (16 per cent).

The study revealed play was the dominant reason given by adults for the visits they took with children to the natural environment but the need to exercise a dog was also cited as a reason.

Some 13 per cent of children from non-BAME households were visiting natural environments to exercise a dog. Only one per cent of those from BAME households did this, which the report said reflected the lower levels of dog ownership among BAME communities.

American author Richard Louv in his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’ discusses how children now wander less, discover less and are losing important connections to nature and place. He said the reasons for this include parental fear of crime, road traffic, the loss of natural spaces for free play and children’s attraction to indoor alternatives such as iPads and TV.

Last October, Daynurseries.co.uk reported how conservationist Sir David Attenborough wrote a letter of support to Little Forest Folk nursery n Wimbledon, South West London, where activities are almost entirely based outdoors with the children dressed to protect them against the elements.

In his letter to the nursery he wrote: “The wild world is becoming so remote to children that they miss out – and an interest in the natural world doesn’t grow as it should. Nobody is going to protect the natural world unless they understand it.”

The Natural England study questioned parents on a monthly basis over a two year period about visits taking by 10,235 children aged under 16 (5,179 in year one of the study (from March 2013 to February 2014) and 5,056 in year two (from March 2014 to February 2015).

To read the report visit: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/498944/mene-childrens-report-years-1-2.pdf

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