Saturday, 1 February 2014

Project Wild Thing and our children's Future.

Memories of my childhood have played a big part in this week. I don't tend to hark back to times gone by, but over the last seven days I have had cause to remember and enjoy those memories.

 I went to a fascinating film called Project Wild Thing. I didn't know what to expect, but if you follow the link you will be able to find out more and watch a trailer ... I came away from the film both inspired and sad. Inspired because I wanted to do something in my own life to get the children I live and work with outside again... and sad because my own children and the children around me spend so little time outdoors.

The film is about trying to get children back outside. Did you know that, on average, children, our children, now spend about 4% of their time outside? The rest of it is indoors, playing on screens, watching tv ... They are losing out on the things I remember as a child...

I remember spending whole days outside, mostly by myself, up the top of our garden playing out imaginary scenes in trees, setting up show jumps made of brooms and bamboo and making my siblings run around the garden as horses. I remember camping in the New Forest and being allowed to go off into the woods by myself, or with my brothers and sister, playing King Arthur and the Round Table. One of my best memories ever is of a forest glade, lit by shafts of golden light, utterly silent other than the whispers of the breeze and the occasional birdsong. I recall believing that I had truly found a place of fairies, of magic. I got lost several times, but I didn't panic. I remember trying to make my way back to the family caravan, going hopelessly in circles, but logically ( eventually) finding my way, using landscape and landmarks to get home.

photo courtesy of Project Wild Thing

Our children are trapped inside by our fear, not their own... our fear of stranger danger, of cars, of children's incompetence. But a child is actually more likely to be struck by lightning than to be abducted. There is more danger in keeping them in, in not allowing them to learn by exploration. Social skills are learnt by exploring together. Physical skills are learnt by pushing their boundaries - climbing trees, rolling down grassy banks, building dens out of sticks and mixing potions from mud and grass and rain water.

photo courtesy of Project Wild Thing

The Project Wild Thing site has been set up to try and spread the word that we need to let our children be free. We need to enable our children to spend time outside, away from screens and games, making their own fun and testing themselves in Nature. This is easier said than done when you live in a tower block or the inner city. The film shows a boy in London showing a tiny triangle of grass that is his green area. The organisation has considered this and have even created an App to give people ideas as to what to do ... WildTime. Its free and it will give you inspiration, whether you have 10 minutes or 2 hours to be outside.

Part of me is sad that children or parents need an App to give them ideas, but at least its there and its free! Whether its drawing something or hunting for something, climbing a tree or rolling down a bank - the ideas are there for you.

I know that in the past my own boys have groaned at the thought of yet another family walk, but when it comes down to it they do actually enjoy themselves. Once outside they love the freedom of running, climbing, jumping, exploring.

One of the things I want to encourage at school is Wild Time ... We are so fortunate to have a Nature Reserve and it would be so wonderful if we could take the children up there and say "Right... here we are ... now off you go ... Enjoy!!" For the children to be able to just explore and wander and imagine without rules would be fantastic.

I really encourage you to think about this... think about your children and the amount of time they spend indoors and how you could get them outside. I don't want you to think I'm preaching here because I know that everyone's circumstances are different ... and goodness knows I understand how hard it is to peel them away from the screen they're on. But its worth it if you can do it ...

Update:  Following the publication of this article I was contacted by the National Trust who told me about their excellent project "50 Things to do before you are 11 3/4" . Its well worth a look at if you need a bit of inspiration and best of all ... its free!



Helloitsgemma said...

I saw the film last week, I was very moved by the trailer which I saw a while ago and had been keen to see it. I wasn't disappointed, I thought it was very engaging. Like you I had a childhood based outside. Project Wild thing left me not knowing if I wanted to laugh or cry. We have to change things for the sake of our children and their sanity.

joy said...

We struggled to get our boys outside, even before all the "screen" things. We had quite a big garden but they only ever played out when they had friends round. Our monthly weekend walks weren't popular but begrudgingly enjoyed. Now well into adulthood youngest son spends every waking moment that he's not at work in front of his screen - unless asked specifically to help with jobs in the garden. At least we tried :-(
Joy xx

Alex Seaford said...

A great post, and so true! I am draconian and limit my son's electronic time; taking him to the woods, the park. So we can run and climb and get mucky ... Long may it continue!

greenthumb said...

Hi just found your lovely blog. It's so true that children are always in side, I spent my youth outside.

sarah at secret housewife said...

Hello Gemma. Yes I agree we have to do something. I'm trying to get it shown in my school.

Hi Joy.Its definitely hard getting them outside! Mine love their screens ... we have to try, even if they hate us!!

Hi Alex! Good for you! I wish I had left it a lot later to let mine have screens. I limit mine now like an old witch!!

Hello Greenthumb! Thank you! I'm glad you like it! I am going to come and visit you too!


Newstead family said...

A great post Sarah! Now living in a warmer climate has made me realise how little we used to do outside in the UK with the boys. Weather shouldn't have been a factor, but we now are outside far more here because the sun shines. Just as easy to put on a pair of wellies as it is to plaster sun cream on! Thanks for the reminder!