It is not often that the director of a wildlife organisation encourages people to head to the cinema, but that’s what I am doing this week writes Dr Gary Mantle MBE, Director, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust
Research published in mid-October shows the scale of the problem; only one in five children now have a connection to nature. The implications are significant; for families, communities, our country and our wildlife.
Simple and free, climbing trees should be part of every child’s life. Image by Ryan Tabor, WWT
Now a new documentary aimed at parents – Project Wild Thing – has been released.
It is part of the UK’s biggest ever campaign to reconnect children with nature and outdoor play. I urge all parents to see it. I hope it will change your life, and more importantly, that it will change your children’s lives.
The film follows one man’s attempt to take his children away from ‘screen time’ – in front of the TV and computer games, to ‘wild time’ – outdoor play and exploring nature.
It has a vital message for parents. It is time to change, to prioritise getting children outside rather than letting technology rule their lives for our convenience.
Without noticing, we have been hurtling towards the end of traditional childhood. Something that millions of adults took for granted – being outside – has become the exception rather than the norm for today’s children.
It’s amazing to think that, in just one generation, the relationship between children and the outdoors has changed so fundamentally.
Decades of further research shows that being outside makes people feel better – physically and mentally.
So this week I am asking you to follow the lead of the Project Wild Thing film; substitute 30 minutes per day of screen time, with wild time. Take your children outside, or allow them out on their own if they’re old enough. Help them to reconnect with the world around them.
There are many barriers that have sprung up over the years, increasing traffic, the rise in technology, concerns about stranger danger and disappearing green spaces. I understand a parent’s desire to keep their children safe. The Trust is here to help.
Over the coming months, on our website, we will be posting articles full of ideas and opportunities to help your children get some wild time. We will provide ideas for things to do, and sometimes suggest where to do it, real family time, not watching television but exploring nature, having fun and making memories.
And, we have an app for that! Head to www.projectwildthing.com and download an app of ideas taking as little as 10 minutes to half a day!
Along with thousands of organisations from schools to businesses, groups to individuals, we are committing ourselves to getting children outside – whatever the weather – to play, to learn, to have fun and be happy. That is the essence of childhood.
Log on to our website, www.wiltshirewildlife.org and click on ‘Project Wild Thing’.
I am inviting you to join us. Will you?