A blog from our Kiwi contributor Heather Knox, creator of the Palmy Dirty 30 challenge and Manawatu Family Microadventurers.

Kids playing outside with other kids has been the Kiwi-way for generations. But in recent times something has changed. Kiwi kids started spending increasing amounts of time indoors.

I believe that by working together we can do something about this. As one of possibly the last generation of parents that will remember what a “free-range” childhood spent predominantly outside is like, I think it is pivotal that we try.

I’m currently trying to nudge the balance back towards outdoor fun in our small city of Palmerston North, NZ. I launched the “Palmy Dirty 30” challenge at the end of November.  (*Snigger*. I love the name. I couldn’t not do this once I’d thought it up). I’m not sure how I got into this situation, I didn’t even really know anything about this issue back at the start of 2015. I read a book called “Microadventures’ by Alastair Humphreys in mid-2014 and things have sort of spiralled from there.

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I love the microadventure concept, but have two small boys, so had to work out how to fit them into my little adventures. This conundrum led to my friend Kate and I starting up the “Manawatu Family Microadventurers” group, to try to connect up local families that liked getting outside, to go tramping, fly kites and throw stones together. This led to a weekly rain-or-shine play group, building a make-shift natural play space and getting the council on board to establish a “proper” wilderness area for kids. Amongst other things.

Searching the web for outdoors ideas to do with our group, we started to discover what was going on outside of NZ. We had begun to realise that playing outside didn’t seem to be the norm any more. Not like it was when we were kids. However, we really didn’t realise the scale of the “kids inside” issue until we learnt of the sterling initiatives going on in the rest of the world.

In November we organised a showing of Project Wild Thing as part of the local Reel Earth environmental film festival. We wanted to do something positive to follow after the film screening, so the Dirty 30 was born. At first we thought we’d just bung it online and print out a few copies. However, as there has been nothing similar to date in NZ, the challenge seems to be capturing people’s imaginations.

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Since November, I’ve been in the local papers numerous times and on national radio stations talking about this. We’ve got a website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Over 14,000 copies of each edition of the Palmy Dirty 30 have been distributed to local kids. We’re done with summer and we’re now gumboot deep into the winter edition. We’ve all been out searching for glow worms, racing snails, jumping in piles of leaves and finding funny fungi.  

Basically it’s me running the whole shebang, supported by some sterling advice from a couple of good friends and some local organisations. With no money at all. In my spare time. When I’m not doing my real part-time job, playing outside with my own two boys or doing all the other general life stuff. With our growing plans for next summer, I’m starting to put together a crack team of helpers and might have to look for some actual funding. Though I’m hoping that we can continue to pull this off by working with groups that already exist (and putting their funds towards a good cause!)

This has turned out to be much larger than I ever intended.

Actually though, I wouldn’t change it for anything at the moment. I’m willing to put my heart and soul into this. The more that I’ve learnt about the “get the kids outside’ movement, the more I believe in it.

If we want a better future for our world, the children are the key. We need the next generation to be connected to their environment. They must care, protect and, most importantly, work to improve it. I want the earth to be better place for my great-grandchildren to play.

The best time to start anything is now. Join us and don’t forget to shut the door behind you on your way outside with your kids!

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