The National Trust believes children are being stifled from effective learning due to the influence of modern life. Technology, health and safety and over bearing parents have prevented children from experiencing the educational benefits of early years learning in the outdoor real world.
The National Trust’s director general, Dame Fiona Reynolds, launched the Trust’s report entitled “Natural Childhood” which urges parents to reconnect children with outdoors. “We need to help children experience nature as fun again,” she said. “We have let the outdoors become daunting, full of risk. In fact it holds boundless opportunities: to create, to learn, to walk and run and to spend precious time with friends and family.”
The report shows that children’s ability to roam freely without supervision has shrunk by 90 per cent since 1970. It also shows 67 per cent of 10 year old children have never been to the shops or to a park on their own and that 10 per cent never play regularly in the countryside. This deficiency has led to a lost in learning and induced health problems such as obesity, rickets and asthma.
Whilst many grandparents can relate to the time when they as children regularly enjoyed greater outdoors freedom there are new ills spawned by modern society. Personal freedom has extended as travel boundaries are breached that exposes children to a combination of greater opportunity and risk. The ability to deal with real world issues needs to be brought into general education. Only from personal experience can we truly learn and retain such learning.
Experiencing the outdoor life is the foundation all children need. The combination of risk, self-preservation, self-reliance and awareness of our environment and social skills can be incorporated into fun play. The skills gained will be essential as children grow. The opportunity to travel extensively is now within the reach of most people. The grounding that can be instilled in children to open their eyes to observe local customs and history whilst absorbing the sights, sound and smells is a huge boost to enrich their lives. And it all starts with visits to the great outdoors.
Growing children with access to modern technology are learning to communicate remotely. Text, mobile phones and social networks have conspired to absorb the focus for children. Instead of buying the next phone app they should be re-introduced to the real world before it becomes a homogenised mass existing primarily on Google and Wikipedia. Something you can read and see but cannot touch.