If you are a parent who is trying to raise happy, healthy and active kids into interesting and interested human beings, you are no doubt concerned with the amount of time your kids – and indeed all kids – are spending outdoors. We certainly are. The Fableists’ clothes are made to live in, to play in and to explore in. We want to see our clothes up trees and rolling down hills. While all kids love being outdoors and running free, convincing them to get out there isn’t always easy. And more and more, competing with the ‘screen time’ your kids crave is to blame.
The newly formed Wild Network is launching the biggest ever campaign to reconnect kids with nature and outdoor play. Their goal is to get parents to swap their kids’ screen time for ‘wild time’: playing outdoors and spending time in the natural world. The Wild Network is made up of more than 370 organisations, including RSPB, the NHS, Wildlife Trust, Scout Association and The National Trust, whose fabulous ’50 Things to do Before You’re 11 3/4’ campaign, was our intro to this current project.
This campaign is probably long overdue. As Andy Simpson, Chair of the Wild Network, said: “The tragic truth is that kids have lost touch with nature and the outdoors in just one generation. Time spent outdoors is down, roaming ranges have fallen drastically, activity levels are declining and the ability to identify common species has been lost.” This is worrying stuff that needs to be front and centre of our parenting agenda.
The Wild Network is advocating the ‘re-wilding’ of our kids with more wild time, and encouraging a swap of 30 minutes of screen time a day for an equal amount of outdoor time. The health and wellbeing benefits of more time spent outside are well documented and the campaign is “all about finding wildness on your doorstep and discovering the sights, sounds and smells of nature, whether in a back garden, local park or green space at the end of the road”.
The centrepiece of the campaign launch is the new, feature length documentary film, ‘Project Wild Thing’. Patrick Barkham of The Guardian claims that “this film will change your life” and it is hoped that it will help to bring about real and lasting change.
In the documentary, filmmaker David Bond takes a look at this modern challenge of getting kids into the natural world. Three years in the making, the film began as a personal journey when Bond realised his own children were living a vastly different childhood from his own, spending just 4% of their lives outdoors. In an effort to get his kids off the sofa, he appointed himself ‘Marketing Director for Nature’ in order to help his brand – nature – compete for a share of his kids’ attention.
Harnessing the power of marketing, which he blames for commercializing childhood, Bond embarks on a campaign to sell nature. The outdoors is the ‘ultimate, free wonder-product’, the one gift you can give your kids that won’t cost a penny. The film follows Bond’s journey to re-brand nature to recapture the imagination of our kids so that they can rediscover the joys of a childhood lived with fresh air and no boundaries.
Ultimately, every parent needs to market nature to their own kids by exposing them to the world outdoors and to show them how to enjoy it. The fondest memories any child will carry with them into adulthood are of time spent outside, on adventures with the people closest to them. What the film urges is that this can be in a garden or city green space; it can be on the walk to school or to the shops; it can be jumping in puddles after a heavy rain or collecting conkers. All we need is to take the time to introduce our children to nature because all kids love being outside. As Bond says in the film: “you’re guaranteed to love nature, or your money back.”
You won’t find ‘Project Wild Thing’ preachy or nostalgic. It is funny and fresh, modern and moving. See it this weekend in the UK. It is being shown in over fifty cinemas across the UK from the 25 October (https://projectwildthing.com/film). The whole family will love it.
Follow the discussion on the twitter feed @wearewildthing and using the hashtag #wildtime or #projectwildthing. Download the new ‘Wild Time’ app, which shows how technology can help give time-pressed families a bucket list of ideas to help get their kids outdoors.