M​Ichaela Strachan: 'Children Have Forgotten How To Play Outside'

Michaela Strachan is concerned that we are raising a generation of children who have forgotten how to play outdoors.

"Getting children outdoors is something I'm very passionate about," the former Really Wild Show presenter told Parentdish.

"We've reached a point where we need to redress the balance of how much time children spend indoors staring at screens and how little time they spend playing outside.

"I think lots of children have actually forgotten how to spend time outside, as the part of the brain that's used for playing computer games and watching telly is different from the part of the brain that's used for being imaginative and creative outdoors."

Michaela grew concerned after learning that 47 per cent of UK children spend less than two hours a day outside, according to a recent survey commissioned by Littlewoods.

Of the 1,000 six- to 12-year olds questioned, 40 per cent said they had never seen a conker, 30 per cent couldn't recognise a woodlouse and 20 per cent didn't know what a tadpole was.

"But are we really surprised that kids don't know what a conker is, when playing conkers has been banned in lots of schools!" says Michaela. "It's ridiculous! Of course some children are going to get their knuckles hurt, but they'll be OK.

"Children sometimes get hurt playing football and rugby, but we're not going to ban football and rugby are we? We're not going to ban people driving, yet every single day there's an accident.


Children will fall out of trees and they will trip over and graze their knees. I just think we need to get things into perspective.


Michaela has an eight-year-old son called Olllie, twin 23-year-old stepsons, Tom and Sam, and a 26-year-old stepdaughter called Jade.

She understands that persuading a child to turn off the TV or console and head outside can be tricky. But she believes that the way parents address the issue may be the crux of the problem.

"We're all guilty of saying to our children, 'Get off the computer! You've got five minutes and then it's going off!' Then when you turn it off, they say 'Well, what do I do now?'" she explains.

"Whereas if we said, ''we're going to play tennis or kick a ball around,' then suddenly the computer won't seem like the only appealing option."

The recent survey also found that 77 per cent of children would actually like to spend more time outside, but 20 per cent of kids are put off doing so because they don't know what to do once they're outside and a further 32 per cent find they get bored quickly.

"Computer games and cartoons offer instant gratification," says Michaela. "You don't have to think imaginatively about what to do next, the game or programme will lay it out for you.

"Whereas, if you take a child outside, they have to think about what it is they are going to do, which takes a bit more effort and can be daunting if you're not used to it."

Children just need a bit of parental prompting to ignite their imagination.

"We have to really encourage our children and give them some ideas of things to do," she says. "Just think back to your own childhood for inspiration."

"I certainly have really fond memories of building dens with my friend Paul, using those poles you grow tomatoes up. We'd get my mum to give us some material to put on top and that would be our little den.

"Then we'd take all my teddy bears out there and have teddy bear's picnic. I used to try and take my Sindy dolls and Tiny Tears too, but Paul didn't like that so much!

"We also used to ride our bikes and play ball games, and now my son Ollie loves to do all that too. He and his mate Luke are always going round the house collecting all sorts of things to take out to their dens."

Michaela is supporting Littlewoods Treehouse of the Year competition, looking for the best dens and treehouses built in outdoor spaces across the UK. For more information and details of how to enter click here.

Outdoor inspiration

These the top 10 things the children surveyed said they'd like to do outside:

- Build a den in the garden or woods

- Build a treehouse

- Camp outside

- Climb a tree

- Visit a farm

- Grow a plant or flowers

- Roll down a hill

- Fly a kite

- Play conkers

- Make a daisy chain

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