Category Archives: Nature

On nature

Think the Scandinavians have succeeded in reconnecting children with nature? Think again

Tower in Valbyparken, CopenhagenEarlier this month I went to Denmark to give a speech at the Nordic Adventure conference, whose theme was reconnecting children with nature. It was not my first visit to the region. I can clearly remember that trip: a study tour in 2003 during my secondment to Whitehall to lead the first UK Government review of children’s play. Back then, I came home inspired by what I had seen – like the nature park at Valbyparken, which had just been built, and which is now one of the city’s most popular parks.

Many of the international delegates to this conference also came looking for inspiration. But this time, I had a different goal. I wanted to get behind the success stories – the beautiful spaces, the switched-on educators, the generously funded programmes – and find out whether it really is so easy for the Nordic nations to make nature a meaningful part of children’s everyday lives. I wanted to hear about the problems, the barriers and the challenges.

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Is this film the tipping point for a more free-range childhood?

George Bernard Shaw allegedly once advised that if you are going to espouse radical ideas, you should wear a respectable suit. David Bond, director and protagonist of the new documentary film Project Wild Thing, clearly has no time for Shaw’s advice: at one point he appears in a huge squirrel costume, manically leafleting a shopping mall in an effort to switch uninterested consumers on to the joys of nature (a scene that crops up in the trailer at the end of this post).

Project Wild Thing, like Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods and my own Sowing the Seeds report, takes up the challenge of reconnecting children with nature and the outdoors. At the start of the film Bond (channelling Pete, the longsuffering dad in the hit BBC sitcom Outnumbered) tries to pull his 3- and 5-year old kids away from their screens and go outside to play. Faced with stubborn resistance, he appoints himself Marketing Director of Nature to, in his words, “flog the benefits of nature to the public”. (And he really did – I blogged about one of his schemes last summer.)

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What a pile of autumn leaves tells us about risk

Here’s a seasonal activity for you, with a hint – or more than a hint – of adventure: leaf-pile-diving.

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The low-cost, anytime bug hunt kit

specimen jar and magnifying glassWant to offer your kids – or the kids you work with – a simple, cheap way to get closer to nature? Just follow these three simple steps. 1: get yourself down to your nearest health clinic to buy/scrounge some specimen jars like the ones in this photo. 2: buy some magnifying glasses online (around 50p/a dollar each). 3: head for your nearest green space, and start hunting!

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Can you match your screen time with wild time – and encourage children to do the same?

The movement to reconnect children with nature has just had a shot in the arm, with the launch yesterday of a new website and campaign to get 1 million children away from screens and out of doors. Called Project Wild Thing, the campaign is the brainchild of the film-makers Green Lions, along with supporters that include the National Trust, Play England, and food giant Arla.

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Play in the Olympic Park: latest plans

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park aerial conceptHere in London, the Games are in full swing, and are hard to avoid. Perhaps easier to miss is the fact that plans are also well underway for the new public park that will be created in the wake of the Games. Indeed some key planning milestones were passed only last week.

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What would you do with this space?

Disused overgrown tennis courtSome disused, overgrown tennis courts near where we live are going to be converted into a community play garden, and I would love to hear your ideas about what could be done there. I am keen for the garden to be a great place for local children and families: where they can have the kind of playful, hands-on, exploratory experiences of nature that I highlighted in my Sowing the Seeds report.

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