Plan 4 The Great Outdoors

Fresh air recreation at its best




Children missing out on the great outdoors

Monday 1 August 2011

As over 500 events get underway this week to celebrate Playday, the national day for play (3 August), new research from Savlon and Play England shows that over 60 per cent of parents would like their children to play outdoors more often than they currently do. Alarmingly, however, one in seven parents don't know where their nearest natural play space, such as a park or playground, is.

Following the recent news that 60 per cent of local authorities report cuts to their play services, Savlon and Play England, in conjunction with Natural England, are calling upon families to share their safe local outdoor playing spaces, with the launch of an interactive online map. 

To coincide with the launch, Savlon and Play England have released new research which shows that while many of parents' fondest childhood memories are of playing with friends in the park or garden and going on adventures, the outdoor world seems to be out of reach for many of today's children. 1 in 5 children have never played in fields and farmland and 1 in 6 have never played in woods and forests - this compares to nearly 60 per cent of adults who played there every week when they were children. 

The research reveals that it is a myth that children prefer indoor based play activities such as computer games, with the majority actually preferring to play outside. Playing at a beach or river (88%), playing in a park (79%) riding a bike (77%) and playing ball games (76%) are overwhelmingly more popular with children than playing computer games. For parents, however, safety concerns mean that 1 in 4 would prefer their child to play on a computer than climb a tree, and 1 in 5 prefer computer-based play than allowing them to play out in fields or farmland.   

Adrian Voce, Co-Director of Play England, said: "Most parents know that children are curious about, and love to play outdoors. This is a deeply instinctive part of human nature and a vital part of healthy childhoods. We need to ensure that all children can access local green spaces to play, enabling them to have everyday adventures outside. To do this we need to support parents to help them feel confident to let children play out." 

"This research we conducted with Savlon shows that parents are concerned about the lack of freedom their children have. 65 per cent of parents believe children today have less freedom to roam than free-range chickens!  The online play map we are launching today will encourage families and whole communities to make the most of their local play spaces, uncover new ones and enable their children to enjoy the freedom and adventure of outdoor play that most adults recall as among the best moments of their own childhoods". 

Austin Healey, ex-England rugby star and father of four daughters under the age of ten, said: "I see a noticeable difference in my girls when they haven't played outside. Their independence, energy and creativity levels are stifled. This Playday I encourage all families to find a local play space, be it a field, common or playground nearby and celebrate the opportunity to play outside and have an adventure." 

Play England's interactive play map will feature the best places for children to engage with nature, including playgrounds and green spaces across England and aims to encourage families to explore new local territory and play freely outdoors. The map is jointly funded by Savlon and Natural England as part of its Access to Nature programme (part of the Big Lottery Fund's Changing Spaces initiative).

Playday is the national day for play in the UK, a celebration of children's right to play and a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children's lives. The campaign is coordinated by Play England, part of the leading children's charity the National Children's Bureau, working in partnership with Play Wales, PlayBoard Northern Ireland and Play Scotland. Visit for more information.

   Get challenged!