The 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?