Need to get children outdoors?

How to escape those iPad screens

Many parents want children to stop staring at computers and get some exercise. One mother investigates how to motivate them

Water run: children are transfixed by fountains. Photograph: Tony Kyriacou/Rex

We live in a Cornish town with three beaches. There’s a small park two minutes’ walk from home where neighbourhood children congregate, and a bigger park you could reach in 15 minutes on foot. The sun is shining, school is over, the day has plenty of daylight hours left in it, and there are many things the children could be doing to unwind.

“I want the iPad,” says my eldest son, stomping in from secondary school.

“It’s not fair,” complains my daughter. “He’s got the iPad.”

“Can I have your computer?” asks the middle one. Inevitably, despite having beaches and parks and friends at their disposal, what my children want to do after school is pick up a screen – any screen – and stare at it like zombies. They are not even interesting zombies – they could certainly not summon the energy to find a human being and devour their brain. They just want to look at pixels and consume some media.

They are not alone. Today’s children spend an average of four and a half hours a day looking at screens, split between watching television and using the internet. Last year it was reported that a child born today will spend a quarter of its life staring, in a non-work-related way, at a screen. I recently taught a residential creative writing course for teenagers in Devon at a centre with no internet connection, and was struck by the teenager who yawned all morning on the first day, explaining his insomnia with the baffling claim that: “I can’t sleep without Wi-Fi.” When you add in adult fears that our children will be abducted or run over, it becomes far easier to keep them inside where we can see them, and let them be passive, coddled, safe, on a sofa.

However, in the past few years a growing number of people and organisations have begun coming up with plans to counter this trend. A couple of years ago, film-maker David Bond realised that his children, then aged five and three, were fixated on screens and iPads to the point where he was able to say “chocolate” into his three year old son’s ear without getting a response. He realised that something needed to change, and, being a London media type, appointed himself “marketing director for Nature”. He documented his journey as he set about treating nature as a brand to be marketed to young people. The result was a film called Project Wild Thing.

Bond has hit a nerve. “It is great,” he says, “to have formed a rallying cry: children need to be outdoors more.” His film charts the birth of the Wild Network, a group of organisations with the common goal of getting children out into nature. The network has grown exponentially, and now comprises over 1,500 organisations, from huge charities such as the National Trust and RSPB, to smaller mental health organisations, teachers’ groups, and pre-schools.

“It’s something we’ve been campaigning on for the past 100 years,” says Jim Wardill, community team manager at the RSPB. “Environmental education work is a fundamental part of what the RSPB is and does. Over the past 10 years or so, people have realised that kids just aren’t getting out as much. It’s about the connection to nature, the emotional bond you develop with the outside world.”

Source: TheGuardian Read more


One of the key ingredients of a healthy childhood is dirt!

You don’t get dirty on a keyboard.



£3bn each year on toys

And, that in Britain alone.

That’s absurd!

Are children given too many toys?

Retailers are starting to gear up to sell the latest generation of Christmas toys, but some campaigners are advocating a change in attitude. Do some Western children have too many toys, asks Joanne Furniss.

Excerpts from BBC News

So why do we have so many toys?

Psychologist Oliver James, author of the parenting book Love Bombing, believes children don’t “need” a vast panoply of toys.

“Most children need a transition object,” said James, “their first teddy bear that they take everywhere. But everything else is a socially-generated want.”

It seems we are keen to generate our children’s wants – the Toy Retailers’ Association reports that the British alone spend £3bn each year on toys.

…”Young children discover their identity through fantasy play. If their toys offer a limited repertoire, this process is eroded.”

It is the “play value” that is most important, says Liat Hughes Joshi, author of Raising Children: the Primary Years. “There are enormous benefits to toys – they bring joy, creativity and learning.”

…She sees three factors that make a brilliant toy: “Social value – a dolls house allows children to play together, versatility – Lego bricks can be made into anything, and durability – such as a wooden train track that the child will use for years.”

But James says it’s even better for children to “colonise objects”. A quick glance into the bedroom shows me that my two have recently colonised my baking trays (drums), towels and pegs (den) and a large plastic storage box (my son’s ark, decorated with a portrait of God). It also explains their fascination with sticks, the Swiss Army knife of the imaginary world.

Read more

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We had toys when we were younger, but they mostly stayed untouched. We “colonised objects” they were the mainstay of our childhood.

Hanging out in the big hedge beside the house, was much more fun than trucks in the sandpit. Exploring the local council yard and playing in the old rusty machinery there, gave us much more value than hanging around home, it forged friendships and allowed us the freedom of mischief (not malicious).

Toys are not appreciated. Well, they are, when they are given, but depreciate rapidly to eventually be abandoned in the toy cupboard.

If you really want to give your child a treat, let them play in the woods, they’ll find a stick and it will be magic (as said in the article).

Toys, generally, destroy a child’s imaginative powers; or at least hamper them.

The current X-Box, Playstation addiction is a dangerous, and sadly, enduring fad. I never let the kids have more that a Tetra game, and that was addictive enough, even to me. The oft heard cry “Dad, wheres the ‘game’?” Dad sitting on the toilet, “Quiet, I’m busy!”  $300, 400, 500 games, where never even considered in my house, but the junk box of cardboard, polystyrene, old pens, tubes, and assorted bottle tops were in demand. Give the kids that box, a bottle of glue, a roll of sellotape, the stapler and some paints on a rainy day and the veranda became a hive of industry, messy, but a hive of busy happy bees.

One thing I have learned in my travels, simple toys can be fun.

A bag with a hundred marbles ($1) can make a poor kids ecstatic, he’s never had ‘a hundred’ marbles before. Give a kid in the first world the same thing, and you get “WTF do I do with these?”

Kids simply don’t know how to PLAY any more.

One Word Essays



















True Love


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I found the above Photo Essay on More Thyme Than Dough . I fell in love with it immediately and knew I had to share it




Been there, done that

Often heard, but little thought about.

Are we as a species a “been there, done that” lot?

Are there any true adventures left?

This thought was generated by reading an article in BBC News:

What adventures are actually left?

The British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s latest adventure is to lead the first winter crossing of Antarctica. But are there many meaningful challenges left for intrepid explorers?

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has already earned plaudits for crossing Antarctica unaided, discovering the Lost City of Ubar and taking a hovercraft up the Nile.

But genuine firsts in exploration are getting hard to find. The world’s greatest peaks have all been climbed.

The earth has been circumnavigated many times by plane, foot, bicycle and balloon, among other means of conveyance. Many of the major rivers, lakes and seas have been swum or canoed.

There are few genuine unknowns. Satellite navigation technology allows mankind to see almost every river, copse and hill.

Machines can do the lifting and keep adventurers connected. Fiennes will be followed by two bulldozers dragging industrial sledges carrying supplies and living quarters.

But once upon a time warriors like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan led their forces thousands of miles overland across unknown topography, while fighting off rival armies. Great navigators – Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, Captain Cook – “discovered” new continents.

In the late 19th Century a ragbag of missionaries, gentlemen explorers and speculators began the scramble for Africa with little knowledge of what awaited them.

Exploration today is a dying art. The new feats are often about endurance as much as discovery. Firsts are ever more specialist and technically defined – first successful scuba dive at the north pole (Michael Wolff), first person to jetpack across the English Channel (Yves Rossy), oldest woman to climb Everest (Tamae Watanabe).

So is there anything left to do? Something combining that potent mix of danger, novelty and a clearly defined natural barrier to overcome.

Gangkhar Puensum, in Bhutan, is said to be the highest unclimbed mountain standing at 7,570m. In fact, it’s illegal to climb it.

Dave Pickford, editor of Climb magazine, explains that “political challenges are often bigger challenges than the physical ones”.

Mountaineering in Bhutan is extremely restricted, apparently due to a combination of environmental concerns and respect for local spiritual beliefs. Some Bhutanese consider the mountain peaks to be the sacred homes of protective spirits or deities.

Read more

We’ve been there and done that.

There is only deep sea exploration left, and the cost of that is so prohibitive that much will remain unexplored… unless someone suspects there is oil to be had.

In light of this revelation, it’s no wonder we have Play Station and X-Box type entertainment.

Am I an explorer?

I, at the age of 40, uprooted my roots and set foot in South America. While I have rarely left the true tourist trail, I have gone off on my tangent occasionally.

Local kids playing on the bridge in Pilcopata where I began my trek, over the bridge and turn left

I have walked for hours through jungles, on paths and off them. I have stumbled across little clearings where there has been a village, stayed for lunch and gone home again. One such ramble ended up with me staying in the jungle for three months. Not deep deep in the jungle, but a respectable 15 hour hike from Pilcopata with nine rivers to cross. The peace and solitude were wonderful. I had a small wooden house, the door lock was a piece of string around a nail. A further 45 minutes walk was a village that supplied me with food, so I ate ‘jungle.’ It was the chief of the village who invited me, San Martin, a man older than myself at the time whose proudest possession was a yellow logging safety helmet that he wore rather like one would wear a bowler hat. The house was his. Every ten days or so, I would make the trek into Pilcopata, stay a couple of days and trek back.

So there is adventure left, I have found it. That is just one of many little stories that I have of South America. My adventure didn’t involve a high mountain, didn’t involve a trek over vast wastelands of ice, it was just a simple walk in the jungle. Could that be considered ‘potent’? Try walking in the jungle at night with no real trail just the moonlight, creating shadows and jungle noises, it gives one perspective on their place in the world.

Adventure and exploring is all around us, it is not dying, it is just in the eyes of the beholder.



Waikuku School where kids can be kids

Old-fashioned values, traditional play-time technique

Parents fed up with over- zealous health and safety rules and politically correct playgrounds are clambering to send their children to a North Canterbury school which has placed an emphasis on “letting kids be kids and letting them play.”

Waikuku School has witnessed a roll explosion as principal Roger Hornblow’s relaxed teaching style has captured the imagination of local families.

The experienced headmaster jokingly describes his domain as: ‘The anti-safe school: We run with scissors.’

Of course, the kids don’t run with sharp instruments, but Waikuku refuses to wrap kids in cotton wool.

Instead, the school has returned to old-fashioned values and traditional play-time techniques and games.

A giant macrocarpa hedge that wraps around the school’s rear boundary has been renamed, ‘Man Land’ – and has been opened up for the children to play in and to fire their imagination.

The youngsters are also challenged by the principal to ride a unicycle around the concrete netball court.

And if they manage it, he buys them morning tea.

They have attempted to equal the high-jump world record using a mini-trampoline and a fat mat.

Kids snorkel lakes searching for sunken boats, tee-off at the local golf driving range, go paint-balling, and fill the school swimming pool with litres of dishwashing liquid for massive foam parties.

For Mr Hornblow, who joined the school in 2008 amidst a collapsing roll and an endemic behaviour problem, allowing pupils to have fun is critical to their self development and learning.

He said: “The whole thing about primary school is making memories. It’s central to the whole thing.

“If your kids go home from school saying ‘school sucks’, then your school probably does suck.

“We try hard to get kids to establish their own boundaries and let kids be kids and letting them play.

Source: The Star Read more


This is what I have been saying for years. At last a man with balls, balls enough to fly in the face of all this politically correct bullshit.

Kids have to skin their knees and bleed, if they don’t, they don’t know it hurts; it’s all a part of growing up.