To do ‘the 30 days’, or ‘the 50 things’? That is the question!
Multiple campaigns for outdoor time exist. We discuss why they are important and how they can all co-exist. And yes, we do have a favourite.
This summer (because it is coming, weather men and women have promised us this) we can look forward to a plethora of wild time activities and opportunities.
From national campaigns, like Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild challenge, or the National Trust’s 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11¾ campaign, to bespoke local or company-sponsored activities, there are tools and activities to be used, read, downloaded and ticked off this summer! And tick them off we should – they are great way to really engage kids and develop their appreciation and understanding of nature. In this busy disconnected world nature needs all the help it can gather. The impact is greater when we’re all shouting together. That’s what The Wild Network is all about – collaborating together. We’ve been promoting them all with genuine passion and excitement for the collective impact they bring.
Here in The Wild Network den we have embarked on our 30 Days with much enthusiasm, but no pompous grandeur. It’s all quite low key – real life wild time, not posed, not fake. (You can see what we’ve been up to on Facebook and Twitter). With 30 Days there’s no list to tick and no badge to collect, but the concept of a challenge makes us excited to get out there. We’re enjoying the responsibility of being accountable for it everyday.
This is the important piece of the wild time jigsaw – the useful reminder, the nudge to gently elbow you out of the front door. You just need time, you need ideas and you need somewhere to go. It’s all very simple when you look at it like that. But we all know that it’s not simple, hence efforts at jamming even just the tiniest of wild time into our everyday life can feel herculean, against the backdrop of screen time and scheduled time.
The benefits are well-documented and well worth the effort – and there can often be unexpected pleasures. Wandering with kids, you are reminded of being a child yourself and the things you learned from others come flooding back to you. Passing that on feels valuable, like a gift, almost precious (if you get carried away, which we did. Cue blank expressions and much kicking of dirt).
Another, unexpected benefit of finding wild time every day is the time it can give back to a family. Making the time to be wild can be tricky (with jobs and school to work around) but it does allow a tiny window to be together in each other’s company and to press stop on the daily grind. This vital stop button is usually only pressed on holiday when, after a few days, we finally manage to relax and start to enjoy a slower pace, to enjoy the view, take a paddle, go for a simple walk…
Back here at home there are plenty of places to find Wild Time ideas, if that simple walk feels just a bit too simple. There’s the Wild Time App (download here for Apple, or Android), the Wild Ideas page of our website, there's National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and RSPB to name just a few of the most well known. But there are many others.
We were delighted to see that holidaycottages.co.uk had also recognised the need to reconnect as a family with nature and launched Nature Watch, complete with activity packs – downloadable through their website – to help families reconnect on holiday. In addition to the difficulties of finding time to play in nature, research commissioned for the holiday rental company showed that children’s understanding of it was limited, perhaps confused by their experience of curated nature stories in video games, films and TV. Many 7-12 year olds thought that dragons and werewolves, more commonly found at Hogwarts than the countryside, were real (14%), while one third believed Silver Birch and other native species, such as Holly and Bluebell were not. And while we all wish dragons did exist at some point in our imagination, it’s much better for nature if kids learn that dragonflies do instead.
That’s why campaigns like these are all so important. Not to highlight the seemingly negative results, but to create conversation, to continue to poke and nudge, to amplify that collective voice – and help nature have a voice. Every reminder, prompt and idea will help someone, somewhere find a connection with nature. From inner city schools and tiny urban spaces, to swathes of green countryside and holiday cottages – it all counts. Just as every minute outside counts and every child’s right to get out into the wild also counts.
As for our favourite? Well, we bent the rules. They’re all our favourites, of course – that’s the idea of a network! Whichever you choose to do, wherever you can find it and however you choose to enjoy it, everyday wildness will open your eyes to nature. If enjoyed regularly that will soon become habit.And when healthy habits are formed in nature, healthy nature-loving children are grown. This has never been so important.
Source: Survey of 1,000 UK children aged 7-12 undertaken by OnePoll for holidaycottages.co.uk, between 5-10 March 2015.