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Thursday, 8 January 2015

New Forest Wild Play Project addresses parent outdoor play concerns

A family playing at a wild play day in the New Forest in August 2014, which was attended by over 400 parents and children.
Almost two thirds of parents based in and around the New Forest have concerns about letting their children play outdoors, a survey suggests.

Parents cited safety concerns, especially ‘stranger danger’, as the main reason for not allowing their children to play outdoors without adult supervision, despite 85 per cent of respondents saying that it is ‘very important’ to them that their children play outside.

Now a wild play project, being developed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust with support from the New Forest National Park Authority, is aiming to address the concerns of parents by developing wild play areas, regularly monitored by community champions, where children can safely learn about nature through play.

In total 378 adults and children took part in the outdoor play survey, and the results from the children surveyed showed that:

  • 37 per cent play outdoors just once a week or less
  • Only 11 per cent play outside most often with parents, guardians or grandparents
  • The most common place for a child to play unsupervised was in their own, or a friend’s, back garden.
  • This echoes nationwide studies that have shown children have less freedom to play outside and get in touch with nature than previous generations. Less than a quarter of children regularly use their local ‘patch of nature’, compared to over half of all adults when they were children, according to Natural England research (tinyurl.com/37okvmt).

James Brown, the National Park Authority’s Community Engagement Officer, said: ‘In many ways the results of this survey are bittersweet. On the one hand children remain eager to play outdoors with their parents or friends, and the majority do play outdoors every day outside of school hours.

‘However our responses from parents show that although the importance of letting children play outside is recognised, many cite safety concerns and a lack of time as reasons why 37 per cent are only letting their children play outdoors just once a week or less.

‘Either way, these results are certainly illuminating, and will help us to develop our wild play project, which aims to provide exciting outdoor play opportunities in the New Forest for children, while helping to address the concerns of parents.’

Work is already underway with parish councils and schools to develop wild play areas, which will provide safe and engaging areas for children to experience nature.

More locations are needed, so if you represent a council, school or youth organisation and would like help to develop your own wild play area please email ourpast.ourfuture@newforestnpa.gov.uk or call 01590 646695.

The wild play project is part of the Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme. This scheme is led by the New Forest National Park Authority working alongside several delivery and funding partners including the Beaulieu Estate, Commoners Defence Association, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Natural England, New Forest Centre, and the New Forest Land Advice Service.

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