National Trust calls for action on children and nature

NT Natural Childhood report coverThe National Trust this morning announced a two-month inquiry into children’s relationship with nature. Launching the inquiry with the publication of a report written by leading naturalist and broadcaster Stephen Moss, the Trust – Britain’s biggest charity, with over four million members – calls for concerted action to reconnect children with the natural world.

Coming as it does on the back of the Trust’s effective lobbying of Government on planning policy, the move marks a major boost to the movement for healthier, happier childhoods. It has been covered on the BBC website, and in the Guardian and the Daily Mail, and Moss debated the topic on the flagship Today Programme this morning.

In my view, the report is a powerful and persuasive document that covers a lot of ground in its 20 pages. Moss is clear that parents cannot be blamed for the decline of children’s freedoms. He highlights the role of traffic growth, stating that “if things do not change, the danger from traffic will remain a primary reason why children do not play outdoors”. There is also a thoughtful discussion of the influence of health and safety concerns. Moss rightly recognises that agencies like the Health and Safety Executive have for some years been calling for a more balanced approach.

The report is strong on free play, including a compelling quote from playworker and play advocate Penny Wilson: “If you watch a child playing outside they’re just doing so many physical tasks – they run for hours, dig, climb. If you told them to do it they wouldn’t, but they want to because they’re playing.” It also references my work on risk aversion, and refers to the work that the National Trust has been doing with me, and also with Bernard Spiegal of PLAYLINK, to take up risk-benefit assessment when making decisions about safety.

In her foreword to the report, National Trust Director General Fiona Reynolds says: “The goal is nothing less than to kick-start the creation of a new way of life for our nation’s children.” What are your views on the National Trust’s actions, and what plans do you have for supporting the movement it feels is needed?

8 responses to “National Trust calls for action on children and nature

  1. Hi,
    Please please please, come and see our Centre, its just up your street! We have felt so alone in our crusaide to promote this…….. Nature and free play is completely our bag!!
    From out outdoor holiday playschemes, with what we call “Free range children” sessions to our outdoor learning pre-school which is 90% of the time outdoors.

    Highway Farm Activity Centre

  2. I often write about the importance of ‘Getting Children Outdoors.’ There’s a lot of support for it in the mainstream but little ‘know-how.’ It’s a complex issue, but we should be able to work together and figure it out for the good of all children. The inquiry is a wonderful step forward.

  3. As a child growing up I was lucky enough to live near a larfge urban, but wild park, it was a safer time for children, so we were able to wander at will,
    observe nature and in the winter ice skate, sled etc, I feel very sad for today’s concreted children, and one has to wonder what type of adults they will grow up to be.

    • But actually, you have hit the nail on the head, what you said, is people of todays perseption of childhood today. It is Statistically no safer in the past to today, people just think it was safer because there wasn’t the “bad” press of today. Our generation are the contributors to making life how it is today for children. A MUST read is the book “last child in the woods” I gaurntee you will relate to it.

  4. That’s very exciting to hear. It seems to be getting national coverage as well. I think there needs to be a big push to get planners, designers, landscape architects and architects on board, to stop them planning and designing unfriendly urban spaces with no nature in them other than the odd tree……. It’s time to turn our cities into an urban wilderness, with “childlife” (as well as wildlife) corridors throughout.

  5. Great to see a national organisation with the standing – and membership – of the National Trust campaigning on this key issue, and that they have made use of much of the research done by Play England on this area over the last five years. We’ve done a post about what the good people of Torbay are doing about it over on and are asking everyone to sign up to support the campaign by following the blog and by thinking about what you can do to get more children playing out more often, how can you get involved?

    The National Trust are right that now is the time. The will is there. But we all need to say that we really want more freedom for our kids, and then do something about it.

  6. Let’s hope that the added gravitas and public attention the National Trust adds to this movement will push it along and make changes come about quickly. Exciting times.

  7. Thanks for the comments. Martin – did you know there is an active nature play network in the South West? It is hosted by the University of Gloucestershire, I believe, and the National Trust and Eden Project are active members. If not, contact me and I can tell you more.
    Cath – you are doing great work with Love Outdoor Play, and I second your call for support for that campaign.

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