The Wild Network Launches with ‘Project Wild Thing’ Documentary

10138864256_a78cb58a76_bIf 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.The Wild Network

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.9670569769_8cdd357c72_b

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.9340352577_29765d5ef4_b

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.”9340422049_4d2172dc52_b

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.9343142752_24aa206053_b

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The Wild Network is Here and Ready to Make Some Noise

Andy Simpson is the Chairman of the newly-formed Wild Network, an association of organisations who are committed to getting kids outside and interacting with nature. We covered the launch of the ‘Project Wild Thing’ documentary, with which The Wild Network is involved. Here, Mr Simpson shares some of his motivation for encouraging kids to ‘Roam Free. Play Wild’.The Wild NetworkIt is hard to imagine a great childhood that would not involve being outdoors, being active and exploring natural places. From playing conkers and wading through fallen leaves in the Autumn to discovering the magic of a rockpool at the seaside, those are the memories of glorious days we want our children to have.

I have spent my working life introducing children to nature – with the The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, but mostly with RSPB. To a certain extent I was successful. I was responsible for Wildlife Explorers, RSPB’s junior club with over 200,000 members. Yet no matter how much effort the conservation movement put into working with children, the big picture was depressing. Year on year research showed that children were spending less time outside in nature.

So what has gone wrong? Like so many other problems, this has happened through people acting reasonably and with the best of intentions. The first duty of any parent or carer of children is to keep them safe. Our natural reaction when faced with threats such as traffic, stranger danger or harmful accidents is to keep our children away from the threats. Job done!

Well not quite. At this point it’s important to look at the other side of the coin. What have we lost? What are the consequences of our decisions? All experts agree that children and nature belong together. At its simplest there is the huge amount of fun to be had exploring, discovering, climbing and digging – the endlessly fascinating world of nature. But that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Active engagement with nature is good for children’s health. We all now know that a sedentary lifestyle for children is a health time bomb with dire consequences in later life. Equally importantly, regular contact with nature is good for children’s mental well-being with benefits for social development and decision making. Many education experts argue that the natural environment is the very best place for children to learn and instinctively all parents know that being in nature is good for the whole family.

The problem seems to be, that while everyone agrees that being in nature is good for children, we have failed to get absence from nature recognised as a real problem that needs to be surmounted. Perhaps nature professionals have made the natural world seem complicated and out of reach. Perhaps we have talked too much about the threats to nature and not enough about the joy of it. Whatever the reason, it is now time for a change.

If we are to stop and ideally reverse the trend of children spending less time outside, we have to convince people that this is a big problem which needs big solutions.

But there is hope. The creation of the ‘The Wild Network’ and its first product, the feature length documentary film ‘Project Wild Thing’ is all about bringing about real and last change – beginning the journey to reconnect kids with nature.

‘Project wild Thing’ takes a fresh look at this modern challenge of getting kids reconnected with playing in the natural world. Expect to laugh and be moved as the director and star, David Bond discovers just how important time in nature should be for his own children. It is impossible to see this film without concluding that this is an important issue which we all, individually and collectively as a society need to address.

This is only the start. The Wild Network has enormous ambitions. We want to put children’s disconnection with nature firmly on the national agenda, working with people and organisations to help get children outdoors and into nature. We want to make it as easy as possible for parents to get their children outside in fun, safe and local green spaces.

I am incurable optimist. The Wild Network already has hundreds of organisations and thousands of people signed up. These organisations and individuals recognise that this is a problem bigger than any of us. It is only if we can build real momentum that we have a chance to make a difference.

So please do three things. See ‘Project Wild Thing’ .I know that you will enjoy it. Go to the Project Wild Thing web site and sign up as an individual or an organisation – it’s completely free. But most of all if you are looking after a child – go outside and have fun.

Andy Simpson
Chairman
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