Have Britain's children lost their connection with the natural world? This is the suggestion of a new report released by the Wildlife Trusts, which claims children have become increasingly separated from nature over the past 40 years.
According to the organisation's research, fewer than ten per cent of youngsters now play in natural areas, compared to 40 per cent when today's adults were children.
In a YouGov survey of parents of children and adults, it was revealed more than one in three (37 per cent) kids have not played outside by themselves in the past six months and just one in ten parents think their child spends more time outside than they did.
Unsurprisingly, this is having an impact on youngsters' interactions with the natural world. Over 50 per cent have never found frogspawn in a pond, while 37 per cent have never seen a hedgehog and 71 per cent have never seen a lizard.
Some 92 per cent of the parents surveyed said they think it is important for children to connect with nature and wildlife, with 78 per cent worried about the lack of time their kids spend doing so.
Physical and mental wellbeing
Why is it so important that children have a connection with nature? It is widely regarded that spending time outdoors is beneficial for both physical and mental wellbeing. After all, humans evolved to live outside, rather than spending our entire lives indoors.
Furthermore, a reduced connection with nature is reflective of a wider trend that is seeing the UK's children spending less time outdoors being active and more time in front of TV and computer screens. According to the Wildlife Trusts' research, only 16 per cent of girls currently exercise the recommended amount of one hour per day, while the figure is 21 per cent for boys.
More than one in four (28 per cent) British children are now classed as overweight or obese and over £713 million is estimated to have been spent on child and adolescent mental health disorders in 2011/12 alone. Reconnecting children with the natural world will not completely solve these problems, but it could play a part in getting kids to spend more time being active outdoors and enjoying the benefits this provides.
Getting children interested in the natural world is also vital for its survival. After all, if fewer people are passionate about wildlife and environment as kids, there will be fewer people willing to protect it as adults.
Discussing the need for children's connection with nature, Sir David Attenborough said: “Contact with nature should not be the preserve of the privileged. It is critical to children’s personal development. We will be physically, mentally and spiritually impoverished if they are deprived of contact with the natural world."
What can you do?
So, how can you encourage your children to get outdoors and connect with nature? The obvious place to start is the garden. With a bit of care, your garden can be a haven for birds, insects and even mammals like hedgehogs and foxes. What better way to spark a child's interest in the natural world than by showing them the creatures that exist on their doorstep?
At CJ Wildlife we are passionate about getting children involved with nature and offer a range of products to help stimulate their interest.