76% of children want to spend more time in nature, new research shows - but parents face these two common barriers

Costs and access to green spaces is preventing kids from spending as much time outdoors as they would like

A young girl hugging a tree
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The National Trust has asked children and parents about access to the outdoors, and it's calling on the government to ensure that everyone lives within 15 minutes of a green space.

There are so many benefits to spending time outside - it can boost mood and mental health, help us stay active and can even improve sleep. But despite getting out in nature being touted as a free and easy way to keep kids entertained, that's not always the case, as research has shown several factors that stop children from playing outside.

Most recently, a survey carried out by the National Trust found accessibility to be the main barrier for parents who want to take their kids to nature spaces (with 63 per cent citing this as the main issue), despite the fact that more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of children want to spend more time in nature.

The Trust said the survey was commissioned to show the disparity in access to green space as well as the public demand for it. After asking 1,000 children aged seven to 14 as well as more than 1,000 parents of those children about access to the outdoors, the data revealed that nearly a third (31 per cent) of parents from lower-income households cited the main barrier to accessing nature as cost. Meanwhile, 56 per cent of children wanted better access to nature and green space.

With this in mind, the National Trust is calling on the government to live up to its previous promise for every person to be 15 minutes away from nature - a target backed by 80% of parents in the survey - which was a commitment made by Rishi Sunak in January 2023. Government data from March of that year shows that 38% of people live more than a 15-minute walk from a green or blue space (blue spaces are rivers, lakes and sea).

The National Trust director general, Hilary McGrady, said: "The benefits of ensuring access to nature is plain to see but there is unequal access to it. We’d like to see the largest improvement in access to urban green space since the Victorian era.

"We know from our own work as well as the polling around this issue there is huge public appetite to address these issues - it is a real vote winner. The impact that being in nature has on young people is profound and we need policymakers to stand up and develop a long-term plan to ensure everyone has access to green space. Research shows that if children and young people can engage with nature early in life, they grow up to care about the natural world and are more likely to take action to protect it."

A post shared by National Trust

A photo posted by nationaltrust on

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "We are creating more opportunities for people to access nature and spend time outdoors in our countryside - it’s why we have set out our ambition for every household to be within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water.

"This is especially important for children, and so we have put in £2.5 million specifically to help young people to spend time in nature.

"Alongside this, we have announced plans for a new national park, made £7 million available for green community spaces and opened 1,075 miles of the King Charles III Coast Path."

To encourage young people to notice and engage with everyday nature, the National Trust has collaborated with First News, a newspaper for kids, to launch a nature photography competition called Nature Around Me.

One winner will get a two-night stay in a barn in Norfolk for up to six people and a trip to see the seals at Blakeney Nature Reserve. Two runners-up will receive a £250 National Trust holiday voucher, and all winners will get a bird box camera system for their school and a First News subscription.

To find out more about the competition and how kids can enter, visit firstnews.co.uk

For more ideas for entertaining kids outside, try these outdoor crafts or give these outdoor games a go for hours of fun in the fresh air.

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.