Fewer and fewer children in Germany are allowed to climb trees, play in the forest or have the opportunity to observe wild animals.
The Emnid survey, which was commissioned by the German Wildlife Foundation, shows an alarming lack of interest in nature among children between the ages of four and twelve. Thus, 49% in this age group have never climbed a tree on their own.
What was taken for granted a few decades ago has become rare today: Children,
playing and romping outside in nature, climbing trees, watching wildlife and damming up streams. “One of the reasons could be the new anxiety among parents,” says Michael Miersch, executive director of Forum Bildung Natur. A large majority think it is dangerous to let their child play in the woods.
On behalf of the German Wildlife Foundation, the TNS Emnid Institute submitted the following question to a total of 1003 parents: “A mother allows her ten-year-old son to play in the forest with a friend. The friend’s mother is against it. She thinks that this would only be possible if an adult watches the children. Who do you think is right?” 53% of respondents agreed with the fearful mother.
Even the observation of wild animals is no longer a natural experience for many children today. 22% of parents said that their children “never or almost never” get to see a wild animal. “The elementary knowledge about wild animals and plants on our doorstep is rapidly dwindling,” says the managing director of the German Wildlife Foundation’s Forum Bildung Natur, Michael Miersch.
The results summarised in the book “Startkapital Natur” (Oekom Verlag) prove that this development has dramatic consequences. In 150 international studies it is proven how important nature experiences are for the child development. Playing in the forest, on meadows and by streams not only promotes motor skills, but also language skills, self-confidence and social skills.
“Our conclusion is clear: children and young people need more experiences of nature,” says Michael Miersch. He sees nature education for children and young people as a “social challenge” and an “urgent necessity”.