Gardens: deeply rooted with potential

Kids: its official¹ you really need to get out more!

According to the latest Britain at Home report by Lloyds Bank Insurance, a study of 2,000 UK homeowners, a large proportion of parents – 37% in fact – don’t think their children are spending enough time in the garden.

That is quite a lot of worried parents, isn’t it? … But more worryingly, it is quite a lot of children that are seemingly not enjoying the benefits that a household garden has to offer.  I think this is a shame… a real shame, because out of the parents surveyed it is clear that they recognise the positive potential that is deeply rooted in their garden: 42% said that time spent in the garden is quality time spent as a family, and 25% said their family laughs more when they are outside.

In fact it’s a lot more than a shame, really – it’s bit of a concern – particularly as it has been well documented over recent years that playing outdoors can have significant positive effects on a child’s well-being and their general happiness. With an increasing number of children growing up supposedly ‘nature deficient’, and as reported by the RPSB in 2013 ‘disconnected with nature’, it could well be time for people to start taking this situation seriously, particularly parents.

The good news is that parents look like they are doing just that. Homeowners with children are currently spending more on their gardens than homeowners without children, and the planned spend for next year is significantly higher for parents with kids at home: £371 versus an average spend for all homeowners of £281. Investments in paddling pools, trampolines, slides and other garden equipment are popular choices when it comes to making gardens appealing places for children.

And this is an important point: for children to want to spend time in their gardens, they need to be perceived – by the kids themselves – as desirable places to be, spaces they feel relaxed and at ease playing in, and letting off steam.

Carefully manicured lawns and impeccable flower beds, fashionable outdoor heated al fresco dining areas …while they might impress to the Jones’ next door, they won’t necessarily entice the children outdoors because – and we all know it – the lure of the Dark Side that is the computer games console, the tablet or another screen-based technology, is a formidable force to overcome: 43% of parents surveyed said their children are inside playing on computer games instead of playing outside in the garden.

Somewhat ironically, if we want gardens to compete successfully against modern technology, we have to offer more of the basics: outdoors spaces that encourage creative, imaginative and unstructured play; places and spaces that children can explore and enjoy freely and with autonomy. Then, and only then, will there be an intrinsic driver from within the child to choose green time over screen time, and to begin to establish a re-connection with nature.

Read the report: Britain at Home – Lloyds Bank Insurance 03.06.15



¹According to Britain At Home: Outdoors Report 2015 from Lloyds Bank Insurance