If you think back to the happiest times in your childhood, I’ll bet a lot of your memories involve being outdoors. Whether it’s camping (hmm), horse-riding, exploring parks and woodlands, beaches and caves, I think it’s the sense of freedom you remember most as a child.
And this is certainly not something you get to experience stuck on a sofa with an iPad.
|Caitlin cartwheeling on Barry Island Beach|
In fact, over half (56%) of British adults have revealed that their fondest childhood memories were made whilst exploring and socialising outside, according to a survey of 1,672 UK adults by garden and conservatory furniture e-tailer Alfresia.co.uk.
The research indicates that today’s children may well be missing out on key childhood memories due to an over reliance on indoor play.
Despite this, over half of parents (58%) in 2017 reveal that they regularly have to battle with their children to get them outdoors and 24% say that their children ‘rarely’ play outdoors during their free time.
|Ieuan exploring Bantham Beach in Devon|
For many this is due to the overuse of technology, as 69% of British parents believe their children spend more time playing indoors on computer games and technology than embracing nature and the outdoors.
Just 9% believe their kids would play outdoors even while it was raining, compared to almost 1 in 5 parents (19%) who claim they would have done so when they were children.
The outdoor activity that evoked some of the strongest memories for British parents was building dens, which was cited as a favourite for 68%.
This was followed closely by playing in the park (65%) and trips to the seaside, which was remembered fondly by 57%.
Other top childhood outdoor memories include playing games like hide and seek, hopscotch and tag (56%) and participating in ball games, such as rounders, tennis and football (52%).
Playing in the paddling pool was a memorable pastime for 49%, followed by enjoying picnics (45%), having water fights (41%), embarking on camping trips (38%) and having barbecues (31%).
More than 1 in 3 adults (35%) remember regularly pleading with their parents for extra time to play outside with friends and 44% stated that they preferred playing outside over being indoors during the summer holidays.
Whilst we adults may well wistfully remember our den building in the woods, many parents now shake their heads and say “yes, but times have changed”. Media coverage of crimes against children seems to be a daily occurrence and whilst my mother would happily let my sister and I spend hours cycling up and down the road outside our house, I wouldn’t be happy to let Caitlin and Ieuan do that now – not least because of the increase of traffic.
|Father & Son on Thurlestone Beach, Devon|
Let’s be honest here though. Whose job is it to make sure that our kids get outside and play? As parents we are as much to blame, I sometimes think, as our kids. It’s all too easy to rely on those ‘electronic babysitters’, isn’t it? Or to give in to the fears I’ve alluded to.
There’s no easy solution, but perhaps families should prioritise more time spent outdoors playing together.
And everyone has a role to make sure that happens.