Why don’t children spend enough time outdoors?

We have discussed the benefits of taking learning outdoors but did you know, in a survey it was found that ‘three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates’ (The Guardian, 2016). Prisoners should have at least 1 hour of exercise in the open air daily. So my question is, WHY ARE OUR CHILDREN NOT GETTING THAT?!

Well, at the present time only around 10% of children play in the natural environment compared to 40% of adults when they were young. According to the survey parents’ fear that there is a lack of green spaces and the ever changing digital technology is encouraging children to spend more time indoors (Moss, 2012). Davies (2011) agrees, in the 21st century technology is very apparent in our everyday lives and there is a worry that children spend too much time indoors using it and schools should play a part in giving children the opportunity to explore the outdoors.

Bianchi and Feasey (2011) found that during the Early Years 50-90% of children’s time is spent outdoors as they move freely between indoor and outdoor environments. This time diminishes throughout the primary years to around just 10% by the time they reach year six, in some schools this number reaches nil other than playtimes.

There are huge concerns over health and safety, we live in a risk-adverse culture which can depress adults confidence in taking children outdoors (Waite, 2010). In some ways we have become an over protective, cotton wool society but children need a chance to get out there. If children do not learn to take risks and have a love and confidence in the outdoors what is the next generation going to be like? Who will be our tree surgeons and our naturists?

The weather, has also been blamed for the lack of time children spend outdoors (Carter, 2014). This is a real shame as there are plenty of options for warm, dry clothing out there and there really is nothing better than splashing in muddy puddles, right?

As well as the weather, homework commitments and pressures of time are another reason (Carter, 2014). Life is becoming so digital and busy and our children are suffering as a result. With the natural environment in danger with pollution and climate change, we need to instill a love for nature in our children now and this will help us encourage them to continue to protect the beauty of the great outdoors for years and generations to come (The Guardian, 2016 (2)).



The Guardian. (2016) Three quarters of UK Children Spend Less Time Outdoors than Prison Inmates – survey. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/25/three-quarters-of-uk-children-spend-less-time-outdoors-than-prison-inmates-survey. (Accessed: 7 May 2017)

The Guardian. (2016) (2) Children Spend Only Half the Time Playing Outside as their Parents Did. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/27/children-spend-only-half-the-time-playing-outside-as-their-parents-did (Accessed: 7 May 2017)

D, Davies. (2011) Teaching Science Creatively. London: Routledge

L, Bianchi and R, Feasey. (2011) Science Beyond the Classroom for 7-11 year olds.
Maiden Head: Open University Press

S, Waite. (2010) ‘Losing our way? The downward path for outdoor learning for children aged 2–11 years’,  Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 10(2), pp. 111-126, doi:10.1080/14729679.2010.531087.

S, Moss. (2012) Natural Childhood. Available at: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/documents/read-our-natural-childhood-report.pdf (Accessed: 7 May 2017)

C, Carter. (2014) Children Spend Less Than 30 Minutes Playing Outside a Week. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/10747841/Children-spend-less-than-30-minutes-playing-outside-a-week.html (Accessed: 7 May 2017)


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