Parents won’t let their children roam…

National Trust for Places of Historic Interest...
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Too many parents are cooping up their families and denying them an adventurous outdoor childhood, according to a survey commissioned by the National Trust. NAEE UK  agree this is a major issue…

Poll found that 45% of those with offspring aged 12 and under wanted ‘more local safe places to play’

Published to mark the all-day Natural Childhood Summit , the data marks the latest stage of the trust’s determined attempt to see more under-13s with tree-climbing skills and muddy knees.

Carried out by YouGov, the poll found that 45% of parents with children aged 12 and under wanted “more local safe places to play” as an incentive to allow their children a freer rein. Pressed on what “safe” meant, 37% of those unhappy with present arrangements cited “stranger danger”, 25% a lack of doorstep green space and 21% too much traffic on routes to playing fields, the countryside or parks.

The two most popular solutions were more supervision at play spaces, from school staff to park keepers, and more activities organised by schools or youth groups. They were proposed by 32% and 31% of the representative sample of 419 parents interviewed across the country.

The trust is also worried that parental fears appeared to be infecting children who had picked up worries about everything from tree-climbing being more dangerous than fun, to not going out in poor weather “in case you slip or catch a cold”. Role models who made a point of going out in the cold, such as Sir Ernest Shackleton or Robert Scott, have meanwhile given way to the heavily-armed and often alien protagonists of computer games. Tim Gill, the author of Rethinking Childhood ,who is speaking at today’s summit, said: “It’s perfectly natural for parents to want to protect their children. But it’s also a simple fact that children can only become confident and capable adults if they are allowed to take some responsibility for themselves as they grow up.

“A more balanced, thoughtful approach is desperately needed. We have to start recognising the benefits of spending time out of doors, rather than just looking out for the risks.” The summit wants to work out agreed programmes with schools, parents’ groups and others which make sure that all children have the chance to “connect with nature” before the age of 12. The trust itself is using its vast and fascinating estate to encourage outdoor children’s activities in everywhere from stately homes’ walled vegetable gardens to wild stretches of the Lake District.

It has also handed out more than 200,000 outdoors activity scrapbooks since the beginning of May in its related 50 Things to Do Before You’re 11¾ .

Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, said the issue had struck a chord and the new data reinforced the belief that “parents want their children to have a better connection with nature, but don’t feel completely confident about how to make that happen in a safe and stimulating way”.

She said: “There is widespread agreement that this is an important issue and that now is the time to act.

“The worlds of conservation, government, education and child welfare need to work together with families and communities to find solutions.”



  1. The same National Trust was sued by children living in my town who were badly injured when a tree branch fell on them; the children quite rightly lost the case. The danger comes to the groups, individuals and landowners who make available their facilities to children in that they can be sued for health and safety reasons. The litigation culture has a chilling impact on getting children into nature.

    1. I assume you mean the parents of the children sued…
      We must certainly ensure children’s safety – but we must also be open to minor scrapes and bruises. As a cub and scout leader I ca vouch that – it’s a fine line!

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