Something is stirring this Spring time

We think that the evidence of the benefits of a childhood that is nature-rich and full of outside play is becoming overwhelming, and growing exponentially. Organisations such as the Woodland Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, the National Trust, multiple Play organisations, as well as many of our other partners, from individual parents to families and school groups and forest educators are doing their best to get kids outside. We know that many of you have been doing it for years too and that slowly things are changing, or maybe, just maybe, we’re reaching a tipping point.

Is Wild Time becoming a zeitgeist?

Over the last 12 months we’ve noticed something stirring. We’ve seen more and more brands start to pay attention too. The issues we care about so passionately are becoming a hot-topic in board rooms across the land. This brings up lots of issues for many of us about the role of brands in issues such as this. It is complex one but we’re firmly of the view that, if we want to truly make a dent in this issue, if we want to turn around decades of decline in outdoor play in a big way then we have to try many different approaches to do so and that includes working with brands. The reality is that most schools don’t (and can’t) do enough outdoor learning; they aren’t Forest Schools. The evidence shows us that many parents aren't able to provide sufficient wild time for their children and that the change isn't happening fast enough or mainstream enough. Sure, a groundswell of change is happening, but we’re impatient to make it happen sooner.

So our approach to working with a brand is this. If they are prepared to invest in this issue for the long-term, if they are willing to take advice from experts in the multiple sectors involved in this issue we’re prepared to start talking. If we think that we can influence the thinking within that organisation, the campaigns they run and the issues they invest in, we (like so many other not-for-profit organisations) will consider working with them for specific, clearly defined and time-limited projects. We think if we do that it can be good news for our movement and the Network as a whole.

That’s why we are supporting the Persil Dirt Is Good campaign and why this summer we’ll be working with them to provide solutions to many more parents than we could ever do on our own. We’re not here for a quick fix, but for a long-term change-making project. What’s more if we can direct more of the advertising noise directed at families into simply getting outdoors it’s a good thing.

What else is emerging?

Here are some of the other main conversations and issues that we spotted emerging this Spring and that are occupying our mind for how we move forward in the work we do.

The blame game

There is still a lot of careful thinking to be done and critical debate to be had about cause and effect of the barriers to Wild Time (space, time, screen and fear) and how these exacerbate each other. Who, for example, is responsible for the fact that children don’t go to parks to play alone? Bad parenting? It is because parks really are full of danger? Because they’re not very nice places to be in? Because getting to them in the first place almost impossible, thanks to roads and traffic? Is it because the commercial world promoted products such as video games that keep children indoors? Is it all of the above – and more? It varies from place to place, between cultures, between ages. It’s highly complex affecting systemic change globally.

The understanding that children are not homogenous

Some children, regardless of how nature-loving or outdoorsy their parents are, just don’t like getting dirty. Some children, regardless of how disinterested their parents are, find their own way into nature and adventure. What about ethnic or minority communities, who traditionally access the outdoors even less than – or in different ways from – others? The ‘outdoors’ may simply not be somewhere you’d want to be in the first place, for all kinds of reasons. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so we want to constantly talk to our Network to create tools to help as many as possible. First, the awareness needs to be raised.

Thinking about different kinds of connection

There has been a lot of talk about the problem of ‘children-nature’ disconnect. Perhaps we have a too narrow idea of what ‘nature’ and ‘connection’ mean. It’s not just about country walks, pond-dipping and knowing your wild flowers; people connect with nature in all kinds of ways, many of them not necessarily the same kinds of ways as people used to. We’re also very much for the opportunity that technology can give us to challenge some perceptions and support an interest. Not everything works for everyone. But there’s no doubt that some kids will love some of the ways to get outside with help. We’re following with interest the ideas emerging that challenge this and are finding ways new ways of looking at the relationships that children do have with nature. More on that soon!

Putting a finger on the pulse

It’s not just about the benefits of Wild Time to individuals – but also to communities. Pocket parks, guerrilla gardening, food-growing cooperatives, doorstep nature, child-friendly cities, the increase in urban wildlife. There are a lot of exciting things happening, lots of brilliant, good people with big ideas, and the potential for lots of innovative and sophisticated ways of influencing. At The Wild Network, we’re trying to keep our fingers on the pulse of all that, and we’re so excited to listen, consult, research, share, link and communicate all this to everyone, from our members on the ground to those in to those who are in positions of tremendous influence.

Taking action together

There’s a lot of talk and there are a lot of good intentions. But actions speak louder than words. We don’t want to talk too much! (We try not to bombard our Network with emails and we never take advertising on our website). We do want to collaborate to make products and tools that will really help communities make a change in their lives.

We know that thousands of you are already taking matters into your own hands, by volunteering, creating groups and by making and doing locally. We want to listen to you, talk with you – and to help support change for your families and your communities. So get involved! Join us – and the conversation – on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or email us and share your thoughts, your experiences and help us make the change.

Thanks for being a part of this brilliant Network!


Do your kids know how to play out? We share our top tips for helping Wild Play. Read more.

When the kids walked home alone. Read why we overcame those 20 Minutes of Terror

Not playing out. Two thirds of parents have outdoor play concerns.


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