How do we make sure every child gets the chance to be a bit ‘really wild’?
Yesterday I sat in a room with over one hundred mums and dads, grandparents and aunties. They were mostly in the suited guise of chief execs, directors and staff from charities and campaigning organisations, with a few public and private sector representatives.
We were gathered for the Natural Childhood summit*, to debate how we can – together – make sure every child has the opportunity to be a bit wild, to go outside regularly to play, in their street, at school, in the local park or further afield.
Key questions were around:
What is the role of families? Of environmentalists? Schools? big organisations like National Trust and RSPB? Smaller ones like Play England? Of Planners, transport and ‘elf’n’safety? Of the NHS? Of the private sector? How can we best work together?
Whatever the solutions – and we’ll report on those over the coming months – we were all pretty much in agreement about what childhood ought to be like, built from responses to the National Trust’s Natural Childhood report. The infograph below summarises the key points:
I was proud as punch when Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, summed up the day with a Love Outdoor Play sticker on her jacket lapel, saying (in essence) that the way to make sure kids ‘get’ nature is for them to be outside playing.
The main barriers (as outlined in the report) to kids being outside in the way that was normal a generation ago, seem to be:
The great Chris Packham put it starkly. If kids today aren’t playing out – picking up dead birds, looking under stones, cutting up stuff with pen knives and digging holes, then in 30 years time we won’t have a room full of concerned naturalists, families and charities.
We have to do something about this NOW.
In the short term we are all supporting Project Wildthing – a campaign that will turn into a film that we can all get involved with.
In the longer term, well we’ve just started debating the four ‘dimensions’ identified by all of us as possible ‘solutions’ when we responded to the original Natural Childhood report:
The summit yesterday gave us hundreds of ideas about practical ways forward ranging from grandparents sharing memories to asking all the supermarkets to do a joint campaign to parents to getting every local authority to make it legally easy to close streets for play.
So what do you think?
In the meantime, come and join Play England and help us continue the campaign for children to have freedom to play throughout their childhood, helping us add our strong voice to the debate and ensuring that whatever approaches we take, the needs of all children and young people to play stays at the heart of it.