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Changes in children's nature-based experiences near home: From spontaneous play to adult-controlled, planned and organised activities

Summary


Norwegian children’s play in natural spaces today is significantly different than the previous generation’s

Skår and Krogh investigated changes in children’s outdoor play and use of natural areas in Brummunddal, a semi-urban community in Norway that has good access to a variety of natural areas. A major purpose of the study was to contribute to research concerning children’s use and experience of nature-based settings in the outdoors as part of their daily lives. This particular study is part of a larger research project focused on people’s use of nature near their homes. According to the authors, “Initial fieldwork in this study revealed that children were the age group in which the amount and character of nature contact had potentially changed the most.”

Using the theoretical framework of phenomenology, the researchers interviewed 20 residents between the ages of 18 and 72 about their experiences as children as well as their observations about children’s experiences today. The interviews were conducted while walking in the area.

In analyzing the interview data, Skår and Krogh found that children’s use of natural areas has changed from being self-initiated to being more planned and organized, as well being more time-limited and controlled by adult activities. The researchers found that children’s geographical range used to be determined more by age and physical ability, but is now dependent on parental transport. In addition, Skår and Krogh found that social norms regarding children playing alone outside and the importance placed on participating in structured activities have changed. Participants highlighted the changing social dimension of children’s play, from large groups of children that played outdoors in the past to small groups of children that play indoors today. Participants also noted changes in physical and social barriers, including increased train and road traffic and social fear.

Skår and Krogh note that these findings are particularly significant given that they have occurred in a semi-urban area with good access to nature and in a country that is 40% wooded and that has a strong tradition of associations with nature. The authors close with implications and considerations for additional research.

 

Citation

Skar, M., Krogh, E., (2009). Changes in children's nature-based experiences near home: From spontaneous play to adult-controlled, planned and organised activities. Children's Geographies, 7(3), 339-354.

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