CHILDREN have a natural love of climbing trees, kicking leaves in the woods and jumping in puddles.

But the proliferation of smart devices such as mobile phones and Ipads, as well as parental worries over safety, have drastically reduced the time children spend playing in parks, forests and fields.

According to a recent survey, three quarters of UK children now spend less time outside than prison inmates - with the consequence families are losing contact with nature.

Analysis: Engage pupils in wonders of natural world

Research has also shown children have a largely indoor, screen-based lifestyle, with just 21 per cent regularly playing outside compared with 71 per cent of their parents.

Now the Scottish Government, the Care Inspectorate and the Inspiring Scotland charity - set up to tackle social problems - is trying to reverse this damaging trend.

The group is publishing new Out To Play guidance on how to get children outside more often.

The guidance has been produced to offer advice on building new outdoor nurseries, as well as encouraging indoor nurseries to get children outside more often, whatever the weather.

It also includes advice on the best outdoor environments, from beaches to woods, how to build shelters, appropriate clothing for all types of weather and tips on safety, hygiene and hand washing.

Celia Tennant, chief executive of Inspiring Scotland, said playing and learning outdoors was life-enhancing.

Read more: Outdoor learning will help solve free nursery places squeeze

She said: “Jumping in puddles, playing hopscotch in the street, exploring your local wood and throwing snowballs with friends is not just the stuff of fond childhood memories. It is how children grow, learn and discover.

“Embedding outdoor play into the fabric of young people’s lives will require us all to work together.

“Nurseries, schools, councils, community groups and families all have a role to play in supporting our children to get outside, but we recognise that many people don’t know where to start.

“In producing this how-to-guide, we hope to equip people with the skills and knowledge they need to make playing and learning outdoors an everyday experience for our children.”

Children’s Minister Maree Todd, who will launch the guidance today, said the Scottish Government recognised one of the barriers to increased outdoor learning and play was a perceived difficulty in setting up or accessing an outdoor space.

She said: “We have committed to help remove this barrier by producing this guide for nurseries looking to offer their children more experiences outdoors, as well as those who are considering setting up an outdoors nursery from scratch.

“Playing outdoors is good for children’s health and wellbeing, develops their social skills and is great fun.”

Read more: Parents told to let their children play outdoors

Ms Todd said the Scottish Government’s expansion of funded early learning provided an opportunity to redefine the type of experience offered in Scotland.

Under Government plans the amount of free childcare will nearly double - from 600 hours to 1140 hours by August 2020 to help raise attainment and get parents back to work.

However, public spending watchdog Audit Scotland has already warned of “significant risks” because of a lack of traditional facilities.

The right to play is enshrined in the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child.