Sunday 16 June 2019

Kate Middleton: Spending time outdoors can help children grow up to become 'happy, healthy adults'

The garden forms part of Kate's ongoing work on early childhood development. Photo: Kensington Palace/PA Wire
The garden forms part of Kate's ongoing work on early childhood development. Photo: Kensington Palace/PA Wire
Kate in the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden during build week ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Photo: Kensington Palace/PA Wire
Kensington Palace undated handout photo of the Duchess of Cambridge in the Adam White (not in picture) and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden during build week ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Photo: Kensington Palace/PA Wire
Kate helps in the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden during build week ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Photo: Kensington Palace/PA Wire
Kate in the Adam White (left) and Andree Davies (right) co-designed 'Back to Nature' garden during build week ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Photo: Kensington Palace/PA Wire

Catherine Wylie

The Duchess of Cambridge said spending time outdoors can help children grow up to become "happy, healthy adults".

Kate said it is "heart-breaking" that there is a "long way to go" to realising this wish, which she said is shared by all parents.

The mother-of-three will unveil her woodland wilderness garden at the Chelsea Flower Show this week, which aims to encourage more children to spend time outdoors.

The Back To Nature Garden, co-created alongside landscape architects Andree Davies and Adam White, and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), aims to highlight the benefits the natural world brings to mental and physical well-being.

The garden forms part of Kate's ongoing work on early childhood development.

Next week marks one year since the duchess and The Royal Foundation established an expert steering group on early years, to advise her on what more needed to be done to better support children in Britain.

The group recently concluded its work and Kate has written to thank them for their support and insight.

Speaking ahead of the garden unveiling, she said: "In recent years I have focused much of my work on the early years, and how instrumental they are for outcomes later in life.

"I believe that spending time outdoors when we are young can play a role in laying the foundations for children to become happy, healthy adults."

In her letter to the steering group, Kate wrote: "Through our work, you have reaffirmed my belief of just how timely it is to focus on what happens in the early years of life, and how pivotal a stage of life this is for a child's future."

Speaking about the scientific evidence presented by the group, the duchess said: "Understanding that our brain develops to 90% of its adult size within these first five years helps crystallise how our experiences in these earliest years are so impactful, and influences who we become as individuals.

"What happens in our early years is vital to our being able to engage positively in school, and in work and society, and ultimately, to how we bring up our own children."

Speaking about the parents and carers who were questioned as part of the research, she said: "It has been reaffirming and immensely heartening to hear from the parents and carers you work with about what they need, and what they want for the children in their care.

"It was abundantly clear - universally - that regardless of location, demographic or circumstance, all parents share the wish for their children to grow up happy, healthy, and equipped to be able to take every opportunity that comes their way.

"It is heart-breaking to know that there is a long way to go to realising this wish."

Kate, mother to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, added: "I can understand that people are nervous about asking for help for fear of judgment, and how that sense of isolation can quickly become overriding and debilitating for any new parent.

"Recognising that the task of parenting is substantial, I have realised the importance of working to make it easier for parents to request support.

"Your work has helped me see more clearly where there are gaps in this support for parents and families."

Writing about her long-term commitment to the issue, Kate said: "There are undoubtedly challenges in trying to bring about the transformation that will make positive change for generations to come, and help break the inter-generational cycle of disadvantage and trauma, yet I am inspired every day by the people I meet and am committed to supporting this endeavour.

"I hope my long-term commitment to working in the early years will help make a difference over a generational timescale."

Kate's involvement with the 2019 RHS Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show was first revealed earlier in the year.

The garden's centrepiece will be a high-platform tree house, clad in stag horn oak that draws inspiration from a bird or animal nest.

It will also feature a swing seat, rustic den and a campfire as well as tree stumps, stepping stones and a hollow log for children to play on.

Interaction with the natural environment will be encouraged through the garden's "multi-sensory" green and blue plant scheme.

Press Association

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