An alarming 81% of children claim to have spent less time outdoors in natural spaces with friends since the national lockdown in March. The finding has fuelled concerns for the mental and physical health of our 8 to 15 year olds.
It's contained in an official National England report commissioned by the Government. The vast majority (83%) felt being in nature made them very happy. Just 3% reported being unhappy outdoors. 70% expressed the intention of spending more time outdoors when Covid restrictions allow.
Local parks and private gardens are the primary locations where kids experience nature through play. 62% of those taking part in the online survey had played in their garden or someone else’s. The same proportion (62%) had visited a park. It underlines the importance of public green space in urban settings, where many more people live in flats with no gardens. Park closures had a major impact on the lives of these children with more than half saying they simply didn’t go out when their local park was closed. A quick search of our interactive map would have found other potential play areas nearby.
82% of children agreed they would like to do more to protect the environment, with 78% saying it was important to them. There was very little variation in levels on environmental concern when the results were analysed by age, region, ethnicity, social grade or annual household income. However, differences were found when it came to access to nature during the March lockdown with white children from wealthier backgrounds enjoying most access to nature.
The findings confirm results from other studies reflecting the lack of parks and public gardens in poorer areas compared with rich areas, automatically discriminating against people living in deprived areas.
Similar studies of adults relating to nature during the same period found the number of adults visiting parks rose by 45% during the pandemic. It’s not known if the increase in the number of older park users or fear of the virus was an influence on the drop in children visiting.
The full report, The People and Nature Survey for England: Children’s Survey (Experimental Statistics, was published on 14 October 2020; three weeks before the second Lockdown in England.