I was wondering if the family had all been poorly with a bug and started to shuffle sideways a bit, just in case, when she added: “Thank goodness the weather is getting better and we can get outdoors again.”
Outdoors again? Were we meant to have stopped at some point?
As we live in a flat and don’t have easy access to a garden, I’ve dragged Freya out – wrapped in many many layers – in all weathers since birth. In fact, her first winter was a peak time for her reflux and being outside, specifically in the wide open space of the park where her cries didn’t rebound off the walls, was probably the only thing that kept me sane(ish).
Now she is a bit less screamy and a lot more mobile, this winter she has been at her happiest when outside splashing in puddles, picking up sticks and carting them around or just playing on the equipment – although we have often been the only ones there.
Obviously, I don’t know this mum’s circumstances – and it’s none of my business how she raises her children, anyway – but her comment reminded me of a story I had read earlier in the day.
According to the results of a survey of 2,000 people: “A generation of children are growing up without experiencing simple outdoor pleasures such as splashing in puddles or mud, building a sandcastle – or even making daisy chains.”
Conducted on behalf of Eco Attractions, an alliance of visitor attractions including places such as the Eden Project in Cornwall and Kew Gardens in London, it also emerged: “The average child spends just under five hours a week playing outside – almost half the 11 hours a week their parents did”.
Of course, we live in a very different world now, including that children in my day had more freedom to roam and a lot less gadgets to keep us indoors. I imagine lack of time and availability of green spaces could also be an issue.
David Hardy, spokesperson for the Eco Attractions, said: “For many people, these activities made up a huge chunk of our childhood, and left us with the memories and experience of our natural world to go with it.
“But today’s children seem to be struggling to experience a large number of them for themselves.
“Nowadays, children have much more to keep them amused – computers, a host of TV channels and smart phones – something older generations didn’t have.
“As a result, youngsters are missing out on getting dirty in the mud and puddles or simply spending time in the fresh air.
“These traditional activities can be a great way of encouraging children to spend more time outdoors, get more exercise and create more memories than they will get from simply sitting in front of a computer or TV screen.”
The story included a list of the top 30 simple childhood activities:
- Splashed in puddles and got wet.
- Built a snowman.
- Walked through squelchy mud.
- Played in a forest/woodland.
- Had a snowball fight.
- Played in a local park or playing field.
- Built a sandcastle.
- Had a picnic somewhere other than your own garden.
- Gone on bike rides.
- Played in the rain.
- Planted their own seeds.
- Climbed a tree.
- Paddled in the sea/stream/river.
- Skimmed stones across a river/lake.
- Gone plant/animal spotting.
- Searched for bugs and insects.
- Helped to grow fruit and vegetables.
- Flown a kite.
- Made a daisy chain.
- Looked for birds.
- Knocked conkers off a tree.
- Gone blackberry picking.
- Had a conker fight.
- Camped outside.
- Pond dipping.
- Played ‘pooh sticks’.
- Hunted for animals in rock pools.
- Built a den from sticks and branches.
- Gone crabbing.
- Found frogspawn.
We are very fortunate to live in Norwich which not only has lots of lovely green spaces but is also ideally placed for the countryside and coast. My plan is to keep this list and try and make sure Freya does as many as possible – although she has ticked off a good few already.
What do you think? Do our children spend less time outside than we did and does it matter?