64 Percent of British Kids Rarely Play Outside

A survey conducted in Britain has unearthed some disturbing facts: 64% of children play outside less than once a week, 28% of them haven’t been on a country walk during the past year, and 20% of them haven’t ever climbed a tree.

As a result, these kids also have some odd ideas about the Great Outdoors: they believe, for example, that cows hibernate in winter, and they can more readily identify a Dalek than an owl.

The survey of 2,000 eight-to-twelve-year-olds for the TV channel Eden was reported in The Guardian last week. It also revealed that the distance British children stray from home on their own has shrunk by 90% since the 70′s. And did you know that more children are now admitted to British hospitals for injuries incurred falling out of bed than falling out of trees?

The irony is that modern kids are more likely than previous generations to understand concerns about the environment and their roles in preserving it. And that’s important. But if a child can describe how global warming is affecting our planet but can’t remember the last time he explored woods or a beach, he’s not likely to genuinely care about nature.

And before we dismiss this report as irrelevant to the U.S., let’s check out the latest report from the Kaiser Family Foundation which found that the average eight-to-eighteen-year-old American now spends more than 53 hours a week “using entertainment media.” Presumably they are not doing that outside.

One thing is clear: this is not about the fact that kids don’t know a bluejay from a sparrow. Scientists, doctors, and mental health experts have been realizing for a while that when kids stop going out into the natural world to play, it affects both their healthy development and society as a whole.

The list is long: “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors,” stated one study published by the American Medical Association in 2005.

Most of us parents and teachers are well aware that our children do better after they have spent some time in nature. We owe it to them to ensure that our kids get out and have fun!

Creative Commons - Tammra McCauley

201 comments

Andrew T.
Andrew T.6 years ago

A Dalek is a type of alien in Doctor Who, the longest running science fiction series in television history, which started on BBC1 in 1963. One might call it a part of British folklore. The series was revived, to huge success, in 2005. I hardly think it’s the writers’ fault if schoolchildren aren’t widely informed about wildlife. I’ve been into Doctor Who since I was nine, yet this didn’t stop me from recognising owls.
This article seems sensationalist to me, in its description of such details as “disturbing.” I was born in 1987, and I usually walked over a mile at least once a week through the rural area surrounding my home village. I never learned how to climb a tree. Why is that “disturbing”? The article doesn’t expend much detail on these “disturbing” revelations. It bases the impression of the majority of UK children seldom going outside on a brief reference to a survey. The quote which reports that children’s mental skills will be strengthened if they play outside seems very glib when offered next to this general impression.
Artificial global warming is questioned as established fact. This article’s concern that children’s concern about it will be dampened by not playing outside feels simplistically zealous.
Rob Grant's satirical novel "Fat" questions the implication that obesity is an epidemic, citing that being overweight isn't as bad for your health as it's said. It quotes a scientific

Erin G.
Erin G.6 years ago

Most of my greatest childhood and also adult memories have involved the great outdoors. Kids should not only be exposed to the outdoors from birth but also to different kinds of animals. They will grow up without hindering allergies and with a fascinating for the natural world which they will ultimately have to return to one day.

Kathy T.
Kathy T.6 years ago

It is too bad that children in UK and US spend less time in unstructured play outdoors. It's not good for their mental health and their physical strength and health.

Tina Davis
Tina Davis6 years ago

I work with 4/5 year olds and we play out everyday, even in the rain! We provide the children with waterproofs and wellies, which they love!

Anja N.
Justin R.6 years ago

Is it because parents are too busy or they have no interest in nature themselves?

Terry B.
Terry B.6 years ago

100% of the children of the homeless play outside.

Ergo, homelessness is good for kids.

Roland F.
Roland Fox6 years ago

Would you like to play outside in the rain? Britain can be quite wet as it is an island off the Atlantic coast of northern Europe and so not so sunny as a lot of the USA or southern Europe.

British children are not so ignorant - some Britsh cattle do "hibernate" in byres see See http://bovines.co.uk/aboutus.aspx also http://www.yourdictionary.com/byre

Maryann P.
Maryann P.6 years ago

This is sad. I am a young Physical therapist who works mainly with geriatrics who are mostly in great shape due to an active outdoor life style their generation was use to. Now days children and young adult are very unhealthy. I believe this is due to a less active life style. Obesity is an epidemic and adult onset diabetes is on the rise in children. Very Scary.

Theresa C.
Theresa C.6 years ago

Very sad! :(

Dave C.
David C.6 years ago

very sad. ODD -- outdoor deficit disorder?