New initiative is launched to transform Britain’s cotton-wool-kids into free-range children
Children have become resistant to nature and have lost their sense of adventure and fun for the great outdoors due to parental ‘hygiene hysteria’.
New research by children’s natural personal care brand Professor Scrubbington’s, reveals it is our lack of tolerance of dirty children that is breeding a generation divorced from nature. Over 60% (63%) of parents surveyed would rather keep their children indoors than deal with the clean-up process afterwards and 41% admit restricting their kids’ messy play to only a few times a month or less. Worryingly, 12% of parents admit never allowing their child to enjoy outdoor messy play.
Even when we do allow our kids to get grubby the research reveals we ‘off load’ the experience to third parties to avoid the clean-up process. Over half (51%) of parents reveal they outsource outdoor messy play to schools and clubs to deal with. Sadly this is in stark contrast to what kids want. An overwhelming 78% of children wish they could spend more time exploring outdoors despite 60% of them admitting that their parents asked them not to.
Chris Packham, Celebrity Adventurer/nature activist says: “Our natural instinct as humans is to explore the outside world and be adventurous. Indeed this has been critical to our evolution and vital to our survival. Yet our growing distaste for getting grubby has meant that a child in nature is fast becoming an endangered species.”
The survey also reveals a ‘lost generation’ of adventure role models in contemporary children’s literature which is contributing to our children’s disconnect from the natural world.
Whilst almost half (49%) of the parents surveyed could name one or more outdoor adventure story from their childhood, citing The Famous Five, Secret Seven, Swallows and Amazons, The Magic Faraway Tree and Robinson Crusoe among their favourites, over a quarter of children (27%) were unable to name any. Similarly, 77% of parents were unable to name any adventure books published in their children’s lifetime.
This alienation from nature has been has been coined ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and can lead to diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.
Stephen Moss, Naturalist, Author and Springwatch TV producer says: “Today’s children spend more time in their bedrooms, staring at screens, than outdoors, looking at the natural wonders all around them. It’s not their fault. Parents have become over-protective, afraid of letting their kids get their hands dirty. As this new survey suggests, the consequences of this over-protection are devastating. Children are growing up with no real sense of adventure, or appreciation of the amazing natural world just beyond their front door and consequently are more risk-averse than any generation before them.
Moss continues: “The solution is simple: we need to give Britain’s children the freedom they deserve. We must prise them away from their screens and devices and allow them to explore the great outdoors: to play, to discover, to get dirty hands and knees – and above all, to have fun. I’m delighted that brands like Professor Scrubbington’s are committed to transforming Britain’s young people from cotton-wool-kids into free-range children.”
In a bid to get families better connected to nature and each other, Professor Scrubbington’s has teamed up with The Bushcraft Company – which provide outdoor learning experiences for children – to launch the first ever literary inspired family nature camps. The idea is to inspire children and parents to come together and nurture their sense of adventure in the great outdoors.
Nigel Miller, Managing Director, The Bushcraft Company says “From fire lighting and shelter-building to archery and wild swimming, we develop camp itineraries that are designed to enhance social and personal development. A day at camp covers a wide range of bushcraft skills and provides a memorable back-to-nature experience.
Children can experience things they would normally be resistant to. They get muddy, they jump in the lakes, they forage with their peers and enjoy a sense of camaraderie together. Without continuous hands-on experience, it is impossible for children to acquire a deep intuitive understanding of the natural world.”
Children will be invited to bring a family favourite adventure story to their adventure camp. The hope is that this will both re-kindle parents’ childhood memories of exploring outside, whilst inspiring children with some of our best loved adventure stories.
The first family focused adventure camps which are due to launch later this year will also feature an educational ‘clean up’ guide from Professor Scrubbington’s to prevent fears of ‘grubbiness’ and a stressful clean-up operation from becoming a barrier to children’s participation in outdoor play.
Emma Cranstoun, Co-Founder of Professor Scrubbington’s says, “Our research proves that we are raising a generation that is resistant to nature, when they should be embracing it. Both children and parents are missing out on some of the most precious, memory-making and bonding experiences, all due to fears that can be easily overcome.”
Cranstoun continues: “We embrace the concept of nurturing through nature and want to empower children to perfect the art of cleaning themselves independently, using products that all link back to the natural world they’ve been exploring. This reflects our research which suggests that three quarters of children aged 4-11 years old would much rather wash themselves rather than have their parents do it“
Did you know?
Fewer than one in ten children regularly play in wild places; compared to almost half a generation ago. (Natural England (2009) Childhood and Nature: a survey on changing relationships with nature across generations. www.naturalengland.org.uk
Children spend so little time outdoors that they are unfamiliar with some of our commonest wild creatures. According to a 2008 National Trust survey, one in three could not identify a magpie; half could not tell the difference between a bee and a wasp; yet nine out of ten could recognise a Dalek.18