A few weeks ago I attended a community forum hosted by Nature Play Qld aimed at reviving neighbourhood play in our community. My aim was to write about the event the next day – I find the longer I leave these things the more I’ve forgotten and the more my ideas and inspiration have faded. But even 2 weeks later I’m still thinking daily about what we learned and I find it comes up regularly in conversation with friends and fellow parents – the evening was hugely inspirational and has motivated me to get back into nature and the community with our 2 boys – and to hopefully inspire others to join us.
The guest speakers for the evening were David Bond (The Wild Network) and Tim Gill (Rethinking Childhood) – both these guys were so passionate and knowledgeable about how our children play that it was impossible not to get excited about the possibilities in our community – especially living in the outdoor paradise that is Tropical North Queensland.
During the session we learned a lot of information and statistics which prove without question that outdoor play is essential for the health, wellbeing and overall satisfaction of our children. We learn by moving through our environments and a huge concern with our children’s generation is that they are isolated, indoors, and for the first time in recorded history will probably have a lower life expectancy than their ancestors. Crikey. This play is serious stuff.
We learned how through just 3 generations the ‘roaming’ territory of children had gone from about 50 square km to about 50 square metres. Although this statistic didn’t take into account our new global roaming power – I’m pretty sure that our grandparents weren’t getting 2 or 3 holidays a year or camping trips on the weekends – I got the point that despite the myriad of ‘advantages’ and ‘advancements’ of recent generations we’ve actually regressed with respect to health and upbringing.
Us grown ups have forgotten how we roamed as kids and are essentially keeping our little ones in captivity. We need to learn that risk has value – and it was also discussed that in fact the risks faced by children nowadays are not nearly as increased as we are led to believe. Tim Gill made a big impression on me when he asked the question – statistically how long do you think you’d have to leave your child out unattended before they were abducted or something terrible happened? The answer – 500,000 years. It really puts things into perspective and makes you question the shock tactic media we are exposed to on a daily basis.
Another strong theme throughout the evening – screen time is evil! However even David Bond – the self proclaimed Marketing Director for Nature – was quick to add that it does have value (as a film maker he said he would feel quite silly completely banning it.) An image that has really stuck with me was of a little girl at London Zoo transfixed on her iPad as a lioness looks on with a slightly bemused expression just a few feet away. (the image can be seen here). As with all other aspects of parenting screen time is one of great debate and inner turmoil for me. I’m pretty sure I could happily live without the TV but am always on my iPhone – whilst hubby’s way to wind down is to watch a cooking show or the footy. However we are super active and always out and about doing things – I suppose like with many other things in life it’s all about balance. I hate the idea of our boys preferring to watch the Wiggles on TV than go to the park – but saying that it was social media where I learned of this very forum and connecting with like-minded people on Instagram and other blogs is keeping me motivated and giving us new ideas.
As well as the speakers we were also given loads of great resources to take home – info on Nature Play Qld and how we can do more in our neighbourhood – plus practical things like the super cute ‘it’s not a scar it’s a memory’ band aids and a letter to send to neighbours when planning a street party. There were also some fab age appropriate lists of activities to do with your children – I’ve attached everything I picked up on the night here if you’d like to take a look or all the resources and more are available on the Nature Play Qld website
Thanks to the organisers and speakers on the night for reminding me what being a child is all about and for inspiring me and the boys to get out and go wild – we hope you can join us!