Friday, 12 July 2013

Families invited to enjoy forest magic as survey reveals children losing their imaginations

90% of parents think children are losing their imaginations by age ten, a new study reveals.

Researchers found lack of outdoor play and too much time spent on computers and games consoles are being blamed for making today’s children less imaginative.

The results come as the Forestry Commission launches a programme of enchanting activities inviting parents and their children to enjoy the magic of the forest throughout 2013.

The Forest Fairy Tales campaign will see events take place across the country and includes fairy trails, sculpture making, picnics, crafts and story walks across various Forestry Commission sites.

This winter will see the launch of the Stick Man Trails, which will encourage children to learn more about the natural world in forests and also online. The trails will take place in 12 forests across the country throughout between October 2013 and January 2014.

The campaign aims to engage a whole generation of youngsters in imaginative outdoor play and reverse perceptions many parents have about their child’s interest in the world of pretend.

Of the 2,000 parents of school-age children surveyed by Forestry Commission England, nearly three quarters think that today’s children play outdoors less than they did as children and half (51%) believe this directly influences how much imagination they have.

The survey also found that three quarters of adults think children spend too much time on computers and games consoles and over half (55%) think the rise in technology use is also responsible for children’s lack of imagination.

Indulging in a little make believe has long been thought to have far-reaching developmental benefits for children: Albert Einstein wrote about the importance of fairy tales in boosting children’s intelligence and the child psychotherapist Bruno Bettelheim believed fairy tales helped children develop independence and key social skills such as empathy[1].

As well as providing important moral lessons, fairy tales create a space where children can vent complicated feelings, explore their wildest dreams and confront their fears about the big bad monster, finding a way to decipher good from evil and resolve conflicts[2].

Rachel Giles of the Forestry Commission said:

“Forests are the perfect backdrop to inspire children’s imaginations as many of the most exciting fairy tales are set in the woods, and Forest Fairy Tales will encourage children to explore new worlds using their imaginations, becoming Little Red Riding Hood, a brave knight or a wicked witch.

“Our research shows that many children aren’t engaging in outdoor play to the same extent as their parents did, and we must work harder to encourage those young people to go outside and use their imaginations before the joy of make-believe and pretend is lost forever.

“We hope our Forest Fairy Tales activities will inspire them to use the forest as their playground, a place to create their own fairy tales, confront their fears about good and evil and enjoy less structured play, while learning vital skills that will aid them in their development.”

The survey follows a 2011 Government consultation to which 42,000 people responded which revealed the special place the nation’s forests hold in our hearts.

Many of those who answered said they valued woodlands and forests as places for personal enjoyment and appreciation of the natural world.[3]

And more than four-fifths of respondents to a Forestry Commission survey in 2011 agreed that woods are “good places for children to learn about the outdoors”, while three quarters thought “playing in woods is good for children’s health”.[4]

Activities will be taking place throughout the year at a number of Forestry Commission sites. To find out more and download free online activity sheets visit

The results have been generated in a survey commissioned by the Forestry Commission of 2,000 parents of school-aged children.

Click here to view the full survey.

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