Are they called the Playstation generation these days? Or has that been superceded by a new hybrid of Apple-obsessed-Minecrafters? Whatever you choose to call them, in so many ways they are so lucky. And yet, I find myself pitying my kids and their absolute inability to do nothing. Or more to the point, I pity their lack of understanding of how it feels to have nothing to do. Strange, but true!
The summer holidays of my youth were filled with rollerskating, playing on building sites (health and safety was clearly not a priority in those days), mammoth hide and seek marathons and endless outdoor adventures. All of which were interspersed with that all familiar child-of-the-80s mantra of “I’m bored”.
Apple have single-handedly killed that mantra. Kids are subconsciously drawn to their ‘devices’ like the proverbial bees to a honeypot. They don’t experience boredom as they are too busy gluing themselves to a screen. And here lies the crux of the problem. Kids might not be ‘bored’ but if they are overly reliant on technology, they’re definitely not living their lives to the full.
Digital natives often eschew the great outdoors in favour of screen time. It’s a frustrating, yet understandable, consequence of modern life. But for those of us not content to sit back and watch this happen, what is the solution?
The Wild Thing Project, was founded by filmmaker and father of two, David Bond, who after monitoring his 5 year old daughter’s movements, discovered that she spent a mere 4% of her time outdoors. He decided drastic action needed to be taken. He appointed himself Marketing Director of Nature and spent 18 months visiting UK schools, promoting the Great Outdoors to children.
The Wild Time app is an offshoot of this project. It suggests outdoor games and activities, according to the time you have available, from 10 minutes, to half an hour per day.
The National Trust is also keen to battle what it terms ‘nature deficit disorder’ in kids. Its list of 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾ suggests things that we old-skoolers may have taken for granted, but that our kids might not have tried. Playing Pooh Sticks, whittling sticks and skimming stones are all on there. Other online resources in the same vein include:
http://www.scvngr.com/ (scavenger hunts)
http://www.projectnoah.org/ (explore and document wildlife)
http://www.toywheel.com/ (fun activities for children)
These apps see technology resonating with nostalgia. Why Don’t You? (#memories #kidstv) presenters of old used to ask “Why don’t you just switch off your television set, go out and do something less boring instead? This is the modern day equivalent, speaking to kids in their own language; using technology to encourage offline engagement with the Great Outdoors…and it might just work.