COLUMN: Today's kids are missing out on outdoor experiences, by Erin McDaid, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
As you get older it can be all too easy to assume that everything was better in the past. It is only natural to view things nostalgically, but many things are clearly much better today.
Looking back at my own childhood it is easy to mark out improvements such as central heating, having access to a car as well as computers and mobile phones as positive developments, but some things have definitely changed for the worse.
As a child I was able to roam around the neighbourhood with my friends or cousins.
We would spend hours exploring local woodlands and building dens and would cycle miles to discover new areas of where we build dams across streams or fish with nets for sticklebacks.
We would often be out for hours and our parents didn’t always know where we were – but thankfully we never came to any serious harm.
Apparently the ‘roaming distance’ for a child in 1915 has been estimated at six miles and this pretty much matches my own ‘travels’ as a child in the 1970s.
Sadly, the equivalent figure today is just 300 yards.
Whilst there are perfectly good reasons for this shift, such as the seemingly exponential increase in traffic, this restricted range, whilst perhaps necessary, does inevitably restrict experience of their environment and their personal development.
The opportunity to explore and to learn through taking risks is an essential part of growing up .
I can’t help but find it sad to think that children are missing out on a range of wonderful experiences I was able to enjoy.
When today’s adults were children 40 per cent of them played in natural areas whereas today this figure is only ten per cent.
As a result, many children have little knowledge or connection with wildlife and the environment with 50 per cent not being able to tell the difference between a bee and a wasp.
This lack of access to natural environments undermines children’s physical and mental wellbeing.
A study of 20,000 people showed that they were happier in green places than urban environments and it has been shown that nature close to where children live increases their ability to cope with stressful events and helps with the development of the brain.
The restricted opportunities for children to experience and learn about the natural environment around them makes it vital that organisations such as Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust does all we can to provide safe alternatives.
We can’t turn back the clock but our nature reserves are there for all to explore and our schools programmes and family activities enable us to welcome thousands of children each year.
• For more information about our nature reserves, events and education programmes visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org