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NEWS RELEASE No: 159855 JULY 2013

Families invited to enjoy forest magic as survey reveals children losing their imaginations

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Children reading fairy tales

90% of parents think children are losing their imaginations by age ten, a new study reveals.

Researchers found lack of outdoor play and too much time spent on computers and games consoles are being blamed for making today’s children less imaginative.

The results come as the Forestry Commission launches a programme of enchanting activities inviting parents and their children to enjoy the magic of the forest throughout 2013.

The Forest Fairy Tales campaign will see events take place across the country and includes fairy trails, sculpture making, picnics, crafts and story walks across various Forestry Commission sites.

This winter will see the launch of the Stick Man Trails, which will encourage children to learn more about the natural world in forests and also online. The trails will take place in 12 forests across the country between October 2013 and January 2014.

The campaign aims to engage a whole generation of youngsters in imaginative outdoor play and reverse perceptions many parents have about their child’s interest in the world of pretend.

Of the 2,000 parents of school-age children surveyed by Forestry Commission England, nearly three quarters think that today’s children play outdoors less than they did as children and half (51%) believe this directly influences how much imagination they have.

The survey also found that three quarters of adults think children spend too much time on computers and games consoles and over half (55%) think the rise in technology use is also responsible for children’s lack of imagination.

Indulging in a little make believe has long been thought to have far-reaching developmental benefits for children: Albert Einstein wrote about the importance of fairy tales in boosting children’s intelligence and the child psychotherapist Bruno Bettelheim believed fairy tales helped children develop independence and key social skills such as empathy[1].

As well as providing important moral lessons, fairy tales create a space where children can vent complicated feelings, explore their wildest dreams and confront their fears about the big bad monster, finding a way to decipher good from evil and resolve conflicts[2].

Rachel Giles of the Forestry Commission said:

“Forests are the perfect backdrop to inspire children’s imaginations as many of the most exciting fairy tales are set in the woods, and Forest Fairy Tales will encourage children to explore new worlds using their imaginations, becoming Little Red Riding Hood, a brave knight or a wicked witch.

“Our research shows that many children aren’t engaging in outdoor play to the same extent as their parents did, and we must work harder to encourage those young people to go outside and use their imaginations before the joy of make-believe and pretend is lost forever.

“We hope our Forest Fairy Tales activities will inspire them to use the forest as their playground, a place to create their own fairy tales, confront their fears about good and evil and enjoy less structured play, while learning vital skills that will aid them in their development.”

The survey follows a 2011 Government consultation to which 42,000 people responded which revealed the special place the nation’s forests hold in our hearts.

Many of those who answered said they valued woodlands and forests as places for personal enjoyment and appreciation of the natural world.[3]

And more than four-fifths of respondents to a Forestry Commission survey in 2011 agreed that woods are “good places for children to learn about the outdoors”, while three quarters thought “playing in woods is good for children’s health”.[4]

Activities will be taking place throughout the year at a number of Forestry Commission sites. To find out more and download free online activity sheets visit

The results have been generated in a survey commissioned by the Forestry Commission of 2,000 parents of school-aged children.

View the full survey.

Notes to Editor

1.      Stickman events will take place from October 2013 until January 2014 at:



High Lodge





Sherwood Pines

Birches Valley at Cannock




2.     A number of forests have permanent Fairy Tale themed attractions, including:

  • Dalby Forest, Yorkshire

Enchanted Wood

The Enchanted Wood is a magical adventure play area with a fort, storytelling seats and carved insects hiding in the trees.

  • Grizedale Forest, Cumbria

Clockwork Trees

Wind the magical keys in the forest and turn reality into a musical story. Sculpture by greyworld.

Link -


Hide out in two miniature houses on the Ridding Wood Trail. It is said the forest monsters live in one house and the witch from Hansel and Gretel in the other! Can you spy them there? Sculptures by Paul Dodgson & children from Sandgate & Sandside Schools.

Grizedale Tarn

The dark, still waters of Grizedale Tarn, could be home to The Frog Prince or maybe you'll find him at one of the others dotted across the forest like Juniper Tarn or the secretive Goosey Foot!

Link -

  • Whinlatter, Cumbria

Fairy Kingdom

Explore the Fairy Kingdom on the Wild Play Trail. Discover the troll bridge, wooden toadstools, the great wizard, magical fairy doors, a secret path and hidden carvings!

Link -

  • Kielder Forest and Water Park, Northumberland

'Robin's Hut and Freya's Hut' shelters on Lakeside Way.

These two huts are linked by the story of Freya & Robin, a tale of the two characters who live at opposite sides of the lake.

Link -

Silvis Capitus

Go inside the giant Forest Head that watches and listens to the nuances of the forest.

Link -

  • Chopwell Wood, Durham


Venture along the easy access trail in Chopwell Wood in search of 10 carved wooden sculptures. Look out for the Woodland Spirit, forest Guardians, giant hands and more.

Link -

  • Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire

Mushroom Village

Explore the giant mushrooms, move the sand around in buckets, build sandcastles and play on the slide.

Link -$file/Sherwood-Pines-walking-leaflet.pdf

Robin Hood’s Hideout

Journey deeper into the forest and discover Robin Hood’s hideout. Test your nerve and your climbing and balancing skills on this huge climbing frame complete with tree houses.

  • Fineshade Woods, Northants

Magical Play

Explore the magical oak leaf play area and hide in the witches hut. Then venture deeper into the woods to rule your kingdom from above.

Link -

  • Alice Holt, Surrey

Magical Play Area

Explore the giant’s play area and sit in the giant’s chair to tell a tale, or have fun hopping along the wooden mushrooms and climbing the giant owl and look-out tower.

Link -

Alice Holt’s Ditches and Hollows

Look out for ditches, hollows and logs, all of which could be home to tiny fairies, pixies, goblins and all kinds of magical creatures.

  • Westonbirt, Gloucestershire

The Dark Dell

Find the Dark Dell a little off beaten track in the old arboretum at Westonbirt. Step through the wooden door frame to discover a little clearing of Yew trees. Explore this enchanting little woodland and make up your own tale.

Link -$FILE/kidsmap2012_lowres.pdf

  • Savernake Forest

Fairies Hot Spots

Veteran oak trees with their nooks and crannies are perfect hiding spots for fairies and pixies, and Savernake Forest is filled with them! Can you see faces, eyes or gnarled noses in their trunks?

Link -

  • Rendlesham, Suffolk

UFO Trail

Hunt for extraterrestrial beings on the UFO trail, explore the tree glade, or spin a magical tale in the play area. Use your imagination to spot water sprites by the pond.

Link -

  • Thames Chase, Essex

Mystical Sculptures and enchanting meadows

Take a trip to this lovely community woodland to discover mystical sculptures and create an enchanting fairy dance in the beautiful wildflower meadow.

Link –

  • Bellever, Devon

Fairy Tale Feature Fun

Explore Bellever Forest with fairy tales and magic in mind. Have a feast fit for a king on Bellever Tor, discover ancient burial cairns or look for signs of mystical creatures in the East Dart river.

Link –

  • Great Wood, Somerset

Great Wood Tree Glades

Use your imagination to turn pretty tree glades into fairy hideouts! Can you find a spot to build a fairy den? Collects twigs and moss to make the perfect water-tight shelter.

Link –

3.      Media Contact: Spirit Public Relations, or 0117 944 1415

[1] Bruno Bettelheim, child psychotherapist, “Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, 1976

[2] Readers Digest,


[4] Independent Panel on Forestry (2011) Progress Report. See p6.