Greenspaces for families

It seems like a normal activity for children to play outside. However, children may not play outside as much as you think anymore. In fact, three quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates(1), and a fifth of children do not play outside at all(2)! Research by the National trust also shows that children spend less than half the time outside that their parents did at their age(3).

Many parents are concerned for children’s safety when playing outside unsupervised, and many parents may just not know about the wealth of greenspace that the UK has to offer.

Benefits of nature and exercising in nature

Nature provides many benefits to children. Research has shown that nature can have a large impact on children’s mental wellbeing(4). Contact with nature is also linked to enjoyment, relaxation and lowered stress levels and can improve the symptoms of ADHD(5).

Exercising in nature is even especially beneficial for children. The NHS recommends that children aged 5 to 18 do at least 60 mins of physical activity every day(6). However, only 21% of boys and 16% of girls meet the physical activity recommendations(7). A recent study that simulated a car ride or a walk to school showed that walking to school is linked with lower stress and blood pressure compared with a car ride to school(8). This shows that exercise is beneficial – but combining nature and exercise is best.

Exercise can also bring children the benefit of weight control(9). In 2014 – 31% of children aged 2-15 were overweight or obese(10). Increasing activity levels can help to combat this and prevent a future of health problems.

Finding greenspaces

The Greenspace layer on OS maps provides information about places that are enjoyable, accessible and safe, where families can go to enjoy nature and the outdoors.

OS Greenspace can show you publicly accessible greenspaces that can be used for recreation, exercise and leisure. This includes features such as parks, recreation grounds, play areas and sports facilities. You can also view access points, so that you know you are able to access the greenspace via foot or vehicle – so you can enjoy nature right from your front door!

What can you do using the OS Greenspace layer?

  • Take the kids to playgrounds
  • Do nature activities, such as collecting leaves, sticks or rocks
  • Riding bikes
  • Birdwatching – you can look for different birds or wildlife depending on the season
  • Walking and looking at the scenery
  • Running or racing each other
  • Playing sports – take tennis or rounders with you to the park to play
  • In the winter, you can use greenspaces to jump in muddy puddles or build snowmen if it snows – you can do a variety of different things depending on the season

Using greenspaces for a ‘staycation’

If you’re planning on going on holiday in the country that you live in, why not make it an outdoor holiday? The OS Greenspace layer will allow you to find all accessible greenspaces in the area you are planning to visit. You can find all play spaces – such as playgrounds – for the children, as well as playing fields if you want to have your own game of rounders! You can also look for public gardens or parks, for beautiful places to have picnics or take a stroll.

Get started now

OS Maps web


  1. The Guardian: Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates – survey:
  2. The Guardian: Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates – survey:
  3. The Guardian: Children spend only half as much time playing outside as their parents did:
  4. The Guardian: Why our children need to get outside and engage with nature:
    RSPB: Every Child Outdoors: (pdf)
  5. Psychology Today: Nature's Rx: Green-Time's Effects on ADHD:
  6. NHS: Physical activity guidelines for children (under five years):
    NHS: Physical activity guidelines for children and young people:
  7. British Heart Foundation: Physical activity statistics 2015 (pdf)
  8. US National Library of Medicine: Effect of a Simulated Active Commute to School on Cardiovascular Stress Reactivity:
  9. NHS: What can I do if my child is overweight?:
  10. British Heart Foundation: Physical activity statistics 2015: