Sunday, 29 June 2008

nature's children

Do you remember bicycle trips in the school summer holidays, making dens in your local woodland and playing for hours and hours without a care in the world? I do, but our children will not have the same childhood as we did, I have been reading a lot of material about our children and how out of touch they will be with the world around them.

"Nature Deficit Disorder", a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, refers to the alleged trend that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Louv claims that causes for the phenomenon include parental fears, restricted access to natural areas, and the lure of the screen.

Ministers have recently admited (March 2008) that one in four, eight-to 10-year-olds have never played outside without an adult and one in three parents will not even allow older children, aged eight to 15, to play outside the house or garden.

Just why is the decline in children’s outdoor experiences happening? The root causes of the dramatic loss of children’s freedoms lie in changes to the very fabric of their lives over the last 30 years or so. An exponential growth in road traffic, alongside poor town planning and shifts in the make-up and daily rhythms of families and communities, have left children with fewer outdoor places to go and fewer friendly faces looking out for them if they needed a bit of help, a cuddle or simply a pee and a glass of water. These changes coincided with – some would say fed into – the growth of what sociologist Frank Furedi calls the ‘culture of fear’: a generalised anxiety about all manner of threats that found fertile ground in turn-of-the-millennium families, even though children are statistically safer from harm now than at any point in human history.
In a textbook demonstration of the mechanisms of the market, these physical, economic and social changes and fears have been exploited by manufacturers and advertisers, whose products and messages both reinforce the logic of keeping children virtual prisoners, and compel us to compensate them in the only way our cash-rich, time-poor society seems to know: by spending money on them.

What childhood memories do you have of playing outdoors?

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  1. Gosh, where to begin? Getting up early during the school holidays, grabbing our bikes and riding to the park, spending all day in the park with 20p in our pocket for the ice cream man. Riding home in time for tea. Going apple and raspberry picking in the woods, scrumping apples and blackberries from "the nasty neighbours" gardens and getting a clip round the ear from mum for doing so, but she made the most wonderful apple & blackberry crumbles with them. Spending all day going back and forth between our house and our friends, crossing roads by ourselves because we KNEW how to use zebra/pelican crossings! Running to the newsagents down the road with 10p in our pocket to get a quarter of sherbert pips. Climbing trees, making dens in the garden, using old paddling pools as pirate ships. Helping dad tend the vegetable patch in the garden, using the garden shed as a secret hideaway. I'm sure there's more stashed in the furthestmost recesses of my mind. Brilliant post Emma.

  2. Hmmm, it's a bit of a worry isn't it. Thanks so much for sharing such wise words...I'm really glad I found you and this post. I think you just need to look at the average child's wish list these days (ipod, phone, video game) and it ultimately reflects the lifestyle they lead (indoor entertainment 24/7). As far as I'm concerned, my little boy's love for the sun, the grass and the sand will be nurtured forever. Thanks again, Jodi x

  3. As long as I can remember I was always able to take strolls by myself, my sisters were always allowed (including the four year old) to go on their bikes wherever they seemed fit, and I vividly remembered getting out at 2 in the morning to smell "the night" on a nearby corn field and watch the stars when I was 14. It was rural Mexico yes, but nonetheless. I hope I can have the strength in me to challenge fears and let my daughters grow wilder and free. After all, fostering their connection with nature and letting them experience solitude, danger and miracles by themselves can only make them stronger and wiser.Thank you for reminding me to be a better Mom.

  4. hello, just found your beautiful blog! I absolutely loved this book when I first read it last year.


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