One in five children has never paddled in the sea

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Splashing around in the waves on a summer holiday is one of the essential pleasures of childhood, the stuff of fond memories. Yet one in five children aged eight to 15 has never had the chance to dip their feet into the sea, either on the beaches around Britain's coastline or abroad, a survey has found.

Almost as many have never had the opportunity to take part in the great tradition of building castles in the sand. The survey found 32 per cent of children have never engaged in this absorbing activity.

Meanwhile, the childhood passion for investigating rock pools and the sea creatures left behind in them by the retreating tides also seems to have been denied to many, because 37 per cent admit they have never seen a crab at the seaside.

Many children are thought to miss out on the pleasures of playing at the beach because of factors such as poverty, which prevents their families being able to afford a day at the seaside, and changes in the way children play.

Chris Brown, the joint founder of the travel company which carried out the survey, said it appeared children were too attached to their electronic toys to be bothered getting out into the open air.

"I think it's incredibly sad that so many children haven't paddled in the sea. It's something every young person should have experienced," he said.

"I think with advances in technology, such as games consoles and computers, more kids are staying indoors and not wanting to go out into the open air, which is an awful shame."

However, with 3.9 million children living in poverty in Britain, according to the charity Save the Children, deprivation is thought to be the biggest factor keeping children away from playing in the sea.

Earlier this year the charity concluded that 1.7 million children, or 13 per cent of them, live in severe poverty. Their parents earn little more than £12,000 a year and many of them live in overcrowded conditions, have to sleep on the floor and go without a winter overcoat.

Save the Children said that severe poverty means that, with children going without everyday essentials such as clothing and healthy food, they also have to miss out on the things that most people take for granted, such as holidays and birthday presents. The survey assessed the experiences of 1,399 children and also found that 67 per cent had never been camping, while 71 per cent had missed out on the experience of spending time in a caravan.

Other findings from the survey revealed that 52 per cent of children haven't been on a boat and 40 per cent have yet to fly in an aeroplane.