Today’s featured blog is by Nadia von Benzon, a Lecturer in Human Geography at Lancaster University. In this, she discusses her research into children’s engagement with nature, particularly the experiences of disabled children, and the use of nature for children’s health and wellbeing. You’ll find this (and other blogs) on the Tree Charter website.
The post begins:
We are by now familiar with the idea that children’s opportunities for independent exploration of outdoor spaces appear to be in decline. Numerous studies have illustrated that millennials, and now their children, have fewer opportunities for free play in ‘wild’ spaces than previous generations. This decline is understood to reflect a variety of socio-cultural and environmental changes such as more competition for children’s time – whether that be from electronic devices, commercialised play opportunities or structured extra-curricular activities, greater perception of risk, and greater difficulty in accessing these ‘wild’ spaces – whether through urbanisation or privatization.
There is some suggestion in the research, that disabled children may have an even more detached relationship with outdoor green space than their non-disabled peers, and this research typically considers the difficulties families may have getting out and about with disabled children. Specific difficulties may include a lack of disposable income to spend on leisure activities (on average families including disabled children have below average income) and a lack of free time, as much time can be taken attending to the basic needs of feeding, sanitation and medication or therapy for children with complex needs. These difficulties are often considered insurmountable when the potential destination is unlikely to be equipped with necessary facilities like accessible changing spaces and even surfaces.