Sunday, 1 April 2012

Britain is a country where old men are asked to get their grandchildren out to nature

An article in 'The Telegaph' this week was entitled :

National Trust calls on grandparents to help get kids outdoors

Grandparents are being called on to teach children how to skims stones and climb trees as part of a new National Trust campaign to get "housebound" youngsters outside.

It made the following points, that a Trust report called 'Nature Deficit Disorder' :
* found children today spend fewer than 10% of their playtime in 'wild places' and an average of two-and-a-half hours a day watching tv, in comparison their grandparents, who spent more than half their time outside, often playing unsupervised for the whole day.
* blamed the 'health and safety culture' for discouraging children from climbing trees, even though three times as many children are taken to hospital each year after falling out of bed.

Dame Fiona Reynolds, the Director General of the National Trust, said grandparents, who are now spending more time with children because of early retirement and absent parents, could reverse the trend.

She called on old men and women over the age of 65s to 'encourage children outdoors and make outdoors fun' by teaching them :

* games like 'tag'
* helping them discover nature through 'pond dipping'
* bird watching
* press flowers
* take bark rubbings from trees
* pick wild fruit

"Grandparents remember a time when it was possible to roam unsupervised all day. Children today are completely unfamiliar with that feeling. They need to be given the confidence and the skills to go into the wood and build a den or climb a tree.”

Now there it is Fiona. The fact is that many old men, like this one, who lived in cities when they were boys didn't have and kids in inner cities today don't have :

* ponds to dip
* birds to watch
* flowers to press
* bark to rub
* fruit to pick
* woods to go into
* trees to climb

Stephen Moss, the naturalist who wrote the report, was more down to earth when he said that the National Trust are not trying to turn back time, but seek ways to ensure children feel safe once again to play outdoors.

“We are not trying to put back the clock to some nostalgic, rose-tinted image from the past, like something out of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. This is all about looking forward, and creating a new world: where the sight of children playing outdoors, without parental supervision, is the norm rather than the exception.”


  1. I'm sorry that you didn't get to climb trees and swim in ponds when you were a boy. But it's not too late! Grab a grandchild, your own or borrowed, and go! The National Trust is right on target about the need to get our kids out of the house.

  2. I agree with everything Susan wrote. In addition, it's a gift to see things anew through the eyes of a child.

    1. Susan's plea to 'get the kids outside' cannot be denied. Unfortunately, many of those who live in inner cities don't have the opportunity to do the things she suggests.

  3. Brought up in the 1950s I recall that I spent most of my 'play-time' outdoors in the fields playing football or playing by the canal. My mum even encouraged me to stay out sometimes by making me sandwiches in the morning - we never seemed to worry about security as such unlike the fear (of crime) today. Don't worry Susan, I will get JB out more! DB

  4. One good thing grandparents can do is to purchase their grand children a 'Life Membership' of the National Trust and take them to such lovely places as the Blickling Estate in Norfolk, Knole Park in Kent or, for example, the really fun woodland places as listed on the link below (but there are loads more). In time they could take the next generation to such places themselves.

  5. We didn't have much in the 40s but we had our freedom,Saturday matinee on our own,fishing, street games, kick out ball, if we didn't have a ball we used a tin can !