When you ask any adult what their best memories of their childhood are most describe being outside with friends. Unfortunately today’s children do not enjoy the same freedom. The time children in the UK spend playing outdoors has halved in one generation. British kids spend between 4-6 hours per day in front of a screen.
Childhood lasts 6,574 days – on average kids sleep 3,500 days of that with the remaining spent 1/3rd at school, 15% in front of the TV, 15% eating, 10% playing indoor games, 4% on the loo, and 3% outdoors. Our children are 3% wild, 97% domesticated.
In his book Last Child in the Woods Richard Louv describes ‘nature-deficit disorder’ as affecting our cognitive development, emotional intelligence as well as our physical health. Recent studies are showing that a ‘free-range’ childhood has a huge impact on overall health, and the consequences of failing to allow our children to play independently outside are beginning to make themselves felt. Obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and anxiety are all on the increase.
Unstructured play outside helps children build their self-esteem, focus and self-discipline by allowing them the freedom to learn and experiment.
“Playing with other children, away from adults, is how children learn to make their own decisions, control their emotions and impulses, see from others’ perspectives, negotiate differences with others, and make friends,” says Gray, an expert on the evolution of play and its vital role in child development. “In short, play is how children learn to take control of their lives.” From Peter Grey’s book Free to Learn
Nature disconnection is the result of a series of complex interconnected barriers that include:
· fear: we are afraid for our kids to roam free
· time: we are too stressed and busy
· space: vanishing green space, kidvertising, lack of free range possibilities
· tech: all play seems branded. Screen time = the biggest challenge