Re-Introducing Children into the Wild by Project Wild Thing’s David Bond

10138864256_a78cb58a76_bFilmmaker David Bond has just released ‘Project Wild Thing’ to tie in with The Wild Network’s campaign to get kids back in to the outdoors. Here he explains how the idea for the film began and where it took him. Read our story about the launch here.

I’m a father of two small children. I look at their lives and worry. They spend the bulk of their time indoors, playing with plastic toys that spill out of cupboards, watching television, playing games on the computer and stroking apps on the iPad. What they don’t do much is go outside.

They scream when I suggest we go out for a walk. My daughter, Ivy (6), prefers the television. ‘How much do you love TV?’ I ask. ‘A hundred billion per cent’, she replies, ‘It’s so relaxing’.

Two years ago, I decided to do something.9670569769_8cdd357c72_b

My inner geek needed numbers to work with. I am a filmmaker. I strapped a camera to Ivy’s head to find out how she spends her time: the bulk of it – over a quarter is on screens. Just 4% playing outdoors; the same proportion as she spends in the bathroom.

Yet when she does play outdoors, she enjoys herself far more. My children love nature – they love being outdoors. They just don’t choose it.

All the science shows that getting outdoors is hugely beneficial to children and young people. It improves their health, reduces stress and boosts wellbeing. Just the view of greenery from an exam hall window helps students achieve better grades.

A UNICEF report finally convinced me. It compares child well being in Spain, the UK and Sweden. Across all three countries, children describe a ‘good day’ as being one where they spent time with their family outdoors. But in the UK, children get much less of this than elsewhere – less even than in colder Sweden. When I ask Ivy to remember her ideal day, screens are not mentioned. She talks about camping or playing together in the garden.9340352577_29765d5ef4_b

My daughter misses nature. She’s not alone: millions of children are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Children today spend half the time playing outdoors as their parents did. A third more children can identify a Dalek than can spot a magpie.

This retreat from the wild has serious implications. The British Heart Foundation has spoken up about the importance of an ‘outdoors childhood’ in tackling child health inequalities. Published in June, the State of Nature report, shows that tenth of species are at severe risk of extinction. If children don’t learn hands-on about nature, why would they care to save it?

Their generation face tough environmental challenges. But why bother preserving the ash tree if they can’t name it, have never climbed it or slept under it?

Disconnection from nature affects all children: rural and urban, rich and poor.

Making ‘Project Wild thing’ I spent 18 months travelling across the UK, talking to children of all different ages, races, and social backgrounds. The more I met, the clearer it became that, although all children want and need nature, they don’t choose it or get it. The barriers they face are overwhelming, ranging from parents too afraid of strangers to let their children out through heavily congested roads to a lack of suitable green space.

Project Wild Thing addresses one barrier in particular: the commercialization of childhood. Marketers sell my children everything under the sun. They give them a view of nature so idealistic that the reality of their small garden in South London can never compete. Appointing myself the Marketing Director of Nature, I decided to ‘sell’ nature as the ultimate adventure. I wanted to compete with Disney and Nintendo.

I ran a major marketing campaign. I put posters up on billboards in railway stations across the country. I spoke to children in the most remote Scottish islands and in the busiest of city estates. But on my own, it was never going to be enough.

We all need to be Marketing Directors of Nature – and the best way to sell the product is to enjoy it ourselves.

Project Wild Thing will be shown in cinemas nationwide from the 25 October – screening details can be found at here.

David Bond is a filmmaker9343142752_24aa206053_b

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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