The research was produced to mark the launch of Natural England's One Million Children Outdoors programme, which aims to encourage more children to visit places such as nature reserves.
Natural England's acting chairman Poul Christensen said: "Children are being denied the fundamental sense of independence and freedom in nature that their parents enjoyed. Our research shows that contact with nature has halved in a generation, and that the overwhelming majority of children now want more opportunities to play outdoors.
"Society must question its priorities in providing safe open spaces for play - the money spent on parks and trees in this country is a fraction of that spent on the roads that cause parents safety concerns."
The One Million Children Outdoors programme aims to introduce a million children to the natural world over the next three years. In its first year the programme aims to:
- Double the number of farm visits by school-aged children to 100,000, funded through green farming schemes
- Double the number of children participating in educational visits on National Nature Reserves to 60,000
- Launch a new interactive website for children and families designed around a wildlife gardening accreditation scheme
- Deliver an innovative, nationwide Undersea Landscape Campaign promoting marine conservation to 50,000 children
- Support projects funded through the £23m Access to Nature grant scheme that aim to connect children, particularly from deprived urban communities, with the natural world.
Key findings of Natural England's Childhood and Nature survey are available online.