At the same time, this pandemic has exposed and widened inequalities for young people. One of these is access to safe and engaging places to play, explore and learn. Children have been asked to make huge sacrifices in order to bring this pandemic under control, including less opportunity to play, particularly if they haven’t had gardens or safe local outdoor spaces. Play is considered so vital to child development that it is a fundamental right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The benefits of play, particularly outdoor play, are huge and widely recognised, cutting across physical and mental health, child development and wellbeing. As the International Play Association puts it “play is both a way for children to keep healthy, and a process that helps them to deal with everyday uncertainties, stresses and anxieties”.
Avon Wildlife Trust’s Youth Forum have been fantastic during lockdown. The team of young artists, educators and activists used their videos, photos and artwork to share stories of nature, wildlife and wellbeing with 3,000 followers on Instagram. We are so grateful and impressed with their talent and commitment. It's so important that teenagers and young people do not get the message that they aren't welcome outdoors, at a time when it is most critical for them. Research shows spending time outside in nature can help improve young people’s fitness, reduce stress and improve concentration and creativity. At a time when many of us are struggling with a huge amount of change, uncertainty, restrictions on our freedom and at the worse, bereavement, I see nature as a great source of comfort and solace.