New poll reveals parents’ concern over children’s lack of wildlife experiences

Tuesday 3rd November 2015

Photo by James Beck

The Wildlife Trusts launch new initiative to make ‘Every Child Wild’

Evidence has been growing for a number of years pointing to the array of health and social benefits to be derived from contact with the natural world for all ages. However, results from a new YouGov poll, commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts, highlight the discrepancy between what parents think is best for children and what they actually experience. Our new poll shows that:

• 91% of parents of children aged 18 and under think that having access to nature and wildlife is important for children, yet
• 78% of parents are concerned that children don’t spend enough time interacting with nature and wildlife

Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“We will be physically, mentally and spiritually impoverished if our children are deprived of contact with the natural world. Contact with nature should not be the preserve of the privileged. It is critical to the personal development of our children.”

However, a generation of children is growing up disconnected from nature, with just one in ten ever playing in wild places. The Wildlife Trusts reach around half a million children each year, many with outdoor experiences through their school, but are concerned that many more children are not getting the chance to get close to wildlife.

The poll also reveals:

• 57% of parents said their children spend a little less or a lot less time outdoors than they did - many children are missing out on contact with the natural world. 
• Less than half (46%) of children aged 8-15 had looked for wild flowers with their parent/ guardian or grandparent with even fewer (42%) listening for birdsong together
• 71% of children have never seen a lizard in the wild in the UK, more than half (53%) have never seen a flock of starlings and more than a third (37%) have never seen a hedgehog

The Wildlife Trusts work with schools and teachers who are passionate about using the outdoors but this poll shows wildlife experiences are limited in schools:

• Although more than half of the children polled (56%) have learned about wildlife in the classroom in the last six months, under a quarter (24%) said their school has an indoor nature display area, like a nature table, and
• Only 50% of children said their school had an outdoor nature area and less than half (46%) of the children said they had been to a place in the wild with their school to learn about wildlife in the past year

Rachel Sharp, Chief Executive for Wildlife Trusts Wales, said:

“We know that first-hand contact with nature is good for children. It makes them happier, healthier and more creative and for some it can have a life-changing impact. But there’s a gap between what society intuitively knows is best for children and what they’re actually getting. The results of our poll illustrate that some children are missing out on the contact with nature their parents and grandparents are likely to have known. This is partly due to the changes in our everyday lives and partly due to diminishing opportunities: wild places are vanishing and wild animals such as starlings and hedgehogs have declined massively over the past 50 years.

“Parents clearly think it is important for children to have outdoor experiences and we need to help schools make the most of opportunities for them to discover nature. There are some creative teachers using wildlife and wild places to engage and enthuse pupils but we need to help nature become a more central part of school life, enabling more children to have special wildlife moments close to home.”

More encouragingly, 95% of the children polled have visited a park with their parent/guardian or grandparent, and many (82%) had held a ladybird, highlighting the importance of using urban environments like parks and gardens as places where children can discover and experience wildlife.

In a bid to ensure every child in the UK has an opportunity to enjoy regular contact with nature, over the next year The Wildlife Trusts are inviting individuals, parents, teachers, schools and organisations to share their ideas on what needs to happen to put the wild back into childhood and make ‘every child wild’ as part of a new initiative called Every Child Wild (see It offers top practical tips for successful family adventures, inspiration from young people with a passion for nature and much more, including:

• a new Every Wild Child report, with insights gathered from a poll asking parents and children about wild experiences during childhood
• The Art of Getting Children outdoors: A Practical Guide to Family Adventures, offering practical ideas for parents to inspire children to get outdoors, by Jen and Sim Benson from A Wild Year
• a podcast with five young people, aged 10-16, discussing what it’s like growing up with a passion for nature
• daily blogs on The Wildlife Trusts’ website throughout November from well-known wildlife champions, children, parents, teachers and others on ideas for reconnecting children and nature
• Short surveys for teachers and parents (and anyone else) to share ideas for reconnecting children with nature at home and at school. The Wildlife Trusts are also hoping to gather more information about wild experiences during childhood from people of all ages. See

Rachel Sharp continues:

“The Wildlife Trusts are a leading provider of outdoor learning and early nature experiences in the UK through our Wildlife Watch groups, school outreach work, volunteering opportunities, Forest Schools and the huge number of wild events that we offer every year. We hope Every Child Wild will get people talking and sharing ideas about how we can all help to put the wild back in childhood. We need to empower families, teachers and schools to ensure children have access to nature and to engage with it on a regular basis. Together, we are all nurturing the next generation of naturalists, animal-lovers, birdwatchers, explorers, scientists, campaigners and politicians to try and slow the decline of nature.”

Sir David Attenborough adds:

“The Wildlife Trusts are giving countless people the chance to experience wildlife in their everyday lives. It is moving to see the delight on the face of a six year old looking at a pond skater or caddis fly larva."

View and download the Every Child Wild report here.