In 2011, Planet Ark conducted a study on outdoor play for kids that had stark results. 72% of respondents played outside every day as kids, compared to only 35% of their children. 1 in 10 children today play outside only once a week or less. They also found that less than 20% of their children climbed trees today, and only 24% played out on their street.
This report shows that not only are children playing outside less than ever, but that their outdoor play was changing, too. It was, like so much of our lives today, becoming more structured and organised, and less child-led and spontaneous. For example, more games of soccer, less exploring of nature reserves.
If you’re reading this, then you’re likely already aware of the benefits of playing outdoors, like the development of physical and motor skills, social skills, use of imagination, risk management, and testing limits, not to mention the mental health benefits, too.
So what’s causing this alarming shift? Well, it’s complicated.
Crime and safety concerns play a big part – parents today no longer feel safe letting their children roam the streets unsupervised, or even play in their own yard unsupervised in some cases. And with parents being busier than ever, they don’t have the time to supervise them outdoors either.
It’s not only that. Ever since the technological boom of the 90’s/00’s, getting children – and parents – away from screens has become a real challenge for people all over the world. Other issues such as schools becoming more restrictive, a lack of interest, busy and overworked parents, extended formal child care arrangements, mental health issues, the rise of obesity, extreme weather events due to climate change, bullying, poor funding and maintenance of public parks and natural spaces; the list goes on, and all of a sudden spending time outdoors feels like a chore, just one more thing on the to-do list, or something else for parents to feel guilty about.
Instead of getting outdoors and amongst nature, parents are instead fabricating their own sensory experiences for their children with things like rice or felt, whereas a simple hour outdoors would fulfil any sensory needs in a natural, holistic way, and with far more benefits. Instead of teaching children about lifecycles by examining a real-life example – outdoors -, teachers give worksheets and play documentaries. Instead of time spent climbing trees and building forts out of sticks, kids play on metal constructs under the watchful eye of their carers. Is it any wonder they’re feeling disconnected from our natural environment, when the most basic of nature experiences are being replaced with man-made ones instead?
We want more kids outdoors. Climbing trees, building forts, playing tag, catching frogs, running through the sprinkler. Reminiscent of the days long gone, children not only deserve this kind of freedom, they need it. They need to test their limits, experience the exhilaration of standing beneath a waterfall, expand their imagination with the endless possibilities mother nature provides.
One of our key missions here is to encourage this, especially in an unstructured, child-led capacity. There’s a whole world out there to discover, and we’re all that much better off when we do. No matter if you’re pottering in your yard, or hiking through a national park, any time outdoors is beneficial to you, your family, and the earth, too. One of the best ways to ensure our next generation loves and cares for our earth is to educate them, and set them free amongst it all. Wild and free, the way childhood is meant to be.
We think you want that for your kids, too. Maybe it’s not happening right now, for whatever reason, and that’s okay too. If you’re here it means you’re willing and wanting to bring more nature in to your life, and we’re here to help. We’ll be sharing a series of blogs helping you find inspiration, motivation, and energy to get outdoors, as well as bringing you more of our beautiful nature-based ranges that encourage exploration and adventure.
We may never get back to all-day outdoor play, but we can do better. Our challenge to you is to spend one hour a day outside, every day, for at least a week. Whether it’s a walk to work or school, an hour of play whilst dinner cooks, or a picnic lunch on the lawn, your littles will thank you.