Children spend less time outside than average pensioner

They should be spending their childhood enjoying exciting adventures outdoors '“ climbing trees, eating picnics in the woods and living the idyllic Enid Blyton lifestyle.

Children have been found to be spending less time outside

But in reality, three-quarters of youngsters spend less time outdoors than a typical prison inmate, new research has warned.

A study into the play habits of 12,000 families worldwide found that 74 per cent of British children spend less time outdoors daily than the 60 minutes officially recommended for prison inmates.

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A third of UK children play outside for 30 minutes or less a day – while one in five do not play outside at all.

Many children can't recognise an oak.

Meanwhile, more children could identify a picture of singer Justin Bieber or pop band Little Mix than the proportion who could recognise a British oak tree or the spring crocus flower.

In Scotland, 12 per cent of parents admit they have never been on an outdoor adventure with their child and almost half worry that their child gets less adventure playtime than they did, according to the Play in Balance report commissioned by Persil.

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Parents cited the unreliable British weather, a lack of time and children wanting to stay inside as the main barriers to their offspring playing out.

More young people know who Little Mix are than know come types of flora and fauna. Picture: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Marguerite Hunter Blair, chief executive at Play Scotland, said that children need to spend time playing outside for their wellbeing. Many studies have pointed to the beneficial effects of learning through play and in nature.

“Getting outside is fantastic for children’s mental and physical health,” she said. “They need to let off steam by running around to release natural endorphins which make them feel good about themselves.”

She added: “There is a lot of brain development goes on when children are out and about.

“Children learn through play and do things so differently through make-believe games, especially when they happen outside in green spaces.”

Many children can't recognise an oak.

The report found that nearly eight out of ten parents admit that their children often refuse to play games without some form of technology being involved, while three-quarters report that their child prefers to play virtual sports on a screen inside rather than playing real sports outside.

Mark Sears, chief wild officer at The Wild Network – which is on a mission to “re-wild childhood” – said: “This research highlights 
everything that we know at The Wild Network about today’s children – they aren’t getting enough outdoor play and it has serious consequences. Yet the evidence is overwhelming – outdoor play is vital for children, it makes them happier and healthier.”

The study also found three in ten Scottish children voted their best friend as their ideal companion for playing outside. Meanwhile, one in five named modern adventurer Bear Grylls as the ultimate adventurer, compared to their parents who voted for screen action man Indiana Jones.

Clare Logan, senior brand manager at Persil, said: “We were shocked when we discovered that children today are enjoying as little time outside as prisoners.

More young people know who Little Mix are than know come types of flora and fauna. Picture: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

“That is why Persil decided to start a global conversation about the importance of play for children’s learning and development.”