The outdoors is hugely exciting for kids. Aside from the unlimited possibilities it offers for play, kids can also learn by exploring, discovering, inventing and problem solving. Whether they are climbing a tree, jumping in puddles or looking in rock pools on a beach, every time they’re outdoors kids will learn something new. Interaction with nature is vitally important to a child’s development, and therefore close to our hearts at DiG. That’s why we carried out extensive research with mums and children across the world to explore kids’ relationship with nature. Our study interviewed 2,000 mothers and their children 8-12 years old in 11 countries to find out their views on nature and its positive influence on a child’s development. The results of this study were published in the whitepaper ‘Children and Nature’.
The research findings clearly show that mums understand the positive benefits of outdoor play. As parents, we want to know our kids are being stimulated and entertained through the discovery and creativity that comes with experiential play, not just spending their time on video games or TV. In reality, however, more children regularly watch TV or films, play video games or are on the internet than are outdoors playing in their yards or local parks.
Although in a perfect world, we might like our kids to have the childhoods we did, we face a few obstacles that can inhibit this. As OMO has seen in our whitepaper ‘Giving Children the Right to be Children’, mums harbour fears that their children may not be safe or may hurt themselves when they play outdoors. Parents would rather have their kids under watchful eyes at home – especially if there’s only limited time for parents to spend with them, or if outdoor play facilities in the local neighbourhood are too far away. Setting aside parental fears for a moment, what do kids think? Would they rather play indoors if they had a choice?
Do they agree with their mums? It appears not. Overwhelmingly, 58% of mothers believe their children would rather play indoors, but 63% of kids would rather play outside. Another unexpected result from the research was the loud support from both mums and kids for protecting nature and becoming more aware of environmental issues. Children really want their parents to be more involved with nature and take more care to help protect the planet. This is great news, and it is highly encouraging that there is a new generation of children who take nature and the environment so seriously. It is a shame to hear these kids don’t spend enough time enjoying it for themselves!
What the experts say:
Dr Dorothy Singer of Yale University, a leading thinker in child development, comments: “Although it is concerning that children across the world are not getting the opportunity to experience nature first hand... there is a real need for parents and children to have the chance to interact with nature and to learn through experience.”