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Are you raising a cotton wool kid?

Parental obsession with hygiene is creating a generation of children who have lost their love of nature and a sense of adventure, new research claims

by Alex Lloyd
are you raising cotton wool kids | Parent skills

Do you remember making mud pies, jumping in puddles and climbing trees? Playing outside and getting dirty has long been an integral part of childhood.

But new research released today suggests that kids are no longer exploring and getting mucky in the great outdoors – because we don’t let them.

A survey by children's natural personal care brand Professor Scrubbington’s found 63 per cent of parents would rather keep their children indoors than deal with the clean-up process afterwards - and 41 per cent restrict messy play to a few times a month or less. 

Around one in eight admit to never allowing their child to enjoy outdoor messy play.

Even when they do allow kids to get grubby, parents often ‘off load’ the experience to third parties such as school and clubs to avoid the clean-up process. 

Fewer than one in ten children play regular in wild outdoor places compared to half a generation ago, with one in three unable to identify a magpie compared to nine in ten identifying a dalek.

But it seems the will is there as 78 per cent of children wish they could spend more time exploring outdoor. However 60 per cent say their parents have asked them not to.


Chris Packham in woodland den with kids

are you raising cotton wool kids | Parent skills

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham said of the findings: "Our natural instinct as humans is to explore the outside world and be adventurous. Indeed this has been critical to our evolution and vital to our survival. Yet our growing distaste for getting grubby has meant that a child in nature is fast becoming an endangered species.”

Emma Cranstoun, co-founder of Professor Scrubbington's, said: "Our research proves that we are raising a generation that is resistant to nature, when they should be embracing it. Both children and parents are missing out on some of the most precious, memory-making and bonding experiences, all due to fears that can be easily overcome."

The brand are now teaming up with The Bushcraft Company, who run outdoor camps for kids, to launch a new family nature camp later this year, to bring parents and children to have fun and get mucky together.

In the meantime, you can pick up some inspiration for mucky outdoor play at


are you raising cotton wool kids | Parent skills


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