Are children today missing out on simple pleasures?

muddy“It’s so nice to be able to come to the park again,” another mum commented as we stood in the sunshine watching our children play.

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).

IMG_4249Now 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:

  1. Splashed in puddles and got wet.
  2. Built a snowman.
  3. Walked through squelchy mud.
  4. Played in a forest/woodland.
  5. Had a snowball fight.
  6. Played in a local park or playing field.
  7. Built a sandcastle.
  8. Had a picnic somewhere other than your own garden.
  9. Gone on bike rides.
  10. Played in the rain.
  11. Planted their own seeds.
  12. Climbed a tree.
  13. Paddled in the sea/stream/river.
  14. Skimmed stones across a river/lake.
  15. Gone plant/animal spotting.
  16. Searched for bugs and insects.
  17. Helped to grow fruit and vegetables.
  18. Flown a kite.
  19. Made a daisy chain.
  20. Looked for birds.
  21. Knocked conkers off a tree.
  22. Gone blackberry picking.
  23. Had a conker fight.
  24. Camped outside.
  25. Pond dipping.
  26. Played ‘pooh sticks’.
  27. Hunted for animals in rock pools.
  28. Built a den from sticks and branches.
  29. Gone crabbing.
  30. 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?

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6 thoughts on “Are children today missing out on simple pleasures?

  1. Good point. When my Boy was young, we also lived in a flat, but it was near a park and as he got older he would and play there by himself and with friends.

    My concern for children (and parents) today is the constant adult supervision. It discourages their risk taking, diminishes their problem solving and hinders the growth of self-management. It’s good for kids to run around in the natural world. Yes, they will fall and hurt themselves, whack their heads, scrap with other kids and come running home to mum. But they need to develop a sense of self-reliance and also to learn how to amuse themselves.

    Getting dirty is part of a good childhood as far as I am concerned. Children should run wild. It’s good for them.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Rose. Freya certainly runs wild, at least if the dirt and grass stains on her clothes are anything to go by. I try and stay quite relaxed about it all (they wash) but I do think I will struggle with letting her out alone (when she is 30), even though I know she will need the skills you mention. Not time to worry about that just yet though, thankfully.

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  2. I’m very thankful that I live where I do, there is no end of opportunities to get outside and do stuff, we’re surrounded by amazing countryside and not that far from the sea! We both get out and about a lot anyways (though mobility is a bit of an issue for me at the moment :D), and that’s how we were brought up, both our parents were big lovers of bike rides, walks, etc.

    My love of ‘exploring’ has never diminished even as an adult (sooner or later I’ll do a post on UrbEx, the ultimate grown-up ‘adventuring’) and if I ever feel a bit down, getting outside soon perks me up. Don’t get me wrong, I love computers, the net and plenty of gadgets, but I prefer being out and about and I think all children should grow up with a basic love of nature and a sense of adventure! All my best memories are of ‘adventures’ I’ve had as a child and as an adult…outside! 🙂

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    1. Your Instagram photos from where you live always look beautiful.

      A lot of my memories are outdoor ones too, I really hope Freya can say the same. I think she will need to get to grips with computers and technology at a young age to help her at school and when she’s older but I think the balance is missing for some children at the mo. I’m excited about doing the list though.

      Thanks for commenting, it always makes my day 🙂

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  3. We love getting out and about though I must admit that the weather kept us from our garden and maybe did limit us a little in the winter months but that’s also because I don’t drive so sometimes places were a massive trek to get to and it’s not worth it in the cold. Now that it’s about freezing we are out in the garden each day as well as getting out to the park a couple of times are week and other great places locally. We are really quite lucky here.
    That lists seems like an essential list! I hope Boo get’s to do ever single thing on the list many many times!!

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    1. It’s a great list, isn’t it? I have access to a car which makes things much easier in the cold – and especially if you get somewhere which would be a long walk away and it starts to rain. Boo looks like she loves being outside.

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