• A UNICEF study into childhood wellbeing in the UK, Spain and Sweden examined the factors that children felt contributed to their happiness. Along with family time, being outdoors was mentioned consistently across the three countries. ‘Children were much more likely to talk about outdoor and other active pursuits…than to mention television, using the internet or playing on games consoles as part of a good day.’ (1).
  • Reported in the National Trust’s ‘Natural Childhood’, a survey in 2011 revealed that 80% of people reporting the highest levels of happiness in the UK said that they have a strong connection with the natural world, compared with less than 40% of the unhappiest. (2)
  • A study by Wells & Evans (2003) showed that time in nature reduced distress and increased a sense of self-worth for children that had under gone stressful life events.(3).
  • The Children’s Society, in conjunction with the New Economics Foundation, recommends Five Ways to Wellbeing for children and young adults. These are connect, keep learning, be active, take notice, be creative and play. All of these can be achieved through a combination of structured and unstructured outdoor activity. (4).


  1. Nairn A (2011) ‘Children’s Well-being in UK, Sweden and Spain: The Role of Inequality and Materialism’. Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute for UNICEF. pp 29.
  2. Reynolds, F (2011) ‘People and Nature: A paper from Fiona Reynolds to the Ministerial Advisory Panel of NEWP.’ Quoted in National trust ‘Natural Childhood’. Pp 8.
  3. Wells, N & Evans,G (2003) quoted in Bird, W (2007) ‘Natural Thinking: Investigating the Links between the Natural Environment, Biodiversity and Mental Health’. RSPB. First Edition. pp 40-45, 80.
  4. www.childrenssociety.org.uk/ways-to-well-being


Emotional resilience

  • Thompson & Ward (2006)(1) concluded that outdoor experience contributes to the development of a positive self-image. They go on to say ‘Confidence in one’s abilities and experience of dealing with uncertainty can be important in helping young people face the wider world and develop enhanced social skills.’
  • A study by Pretty et al (2007) (2) found that following the installation of an orienteering course to encourage engagement with green space, there was a marked improvement in childrens’ self-esteem. The study also concluded that ‘Facing challenges in a wilderness setting gives participants the experience of daily successes which help to challenge old negative beliefs and lead to new, more positive realistic self-perceptions…Self-esteem and mood are important indicators of current and future wellbeing therefore affect life-pathways in both adults and children.’(pp 22, 26).
  • Pretty et.al (2009) found that free play in nature at a young age can play a part in predicting lifestyle choices as an adult. For example, those that had ‘free-range outdoor’ childhoods tended to engage more with natural places, be active, be connected to people and society, eat healthy foods, be members of groups and volunteer more(3).
  1. Thompson & Ward (2006) quoted in RSPB ‘Every Child Outdoors Wales: Children Need Nature. Nature Needs Children’. pp 4.
  2. Pretty et al. (2007)’ Nature, Childhood, Health and Life Pathways’. pp22, 26. http://www.lotc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Nature-Childhood-and-Health-iCES-Occ-Paper-2009-2-FINAL.-1-.pdfUniversity of Essex 2009.
  3. Pretty et al (2009) quoted in RSPB ‘Every Child Outdoors: Children Need Nature. Nature Needs Children’. pp 8.



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