How often do your kids play outside – do you think it is often enough?? I attended a conference last year hosted by the organisation Nature Play WA. There were some fantastic topics discussed and we were told about some amazing initiatives being carried out by the organisation. I think Nature Play WA is doing a great job of promoting outdoor play for children but a part of me came away from that conference just feeling sad and even a little bit angry.
Have we really reached that point where we need a specialised organisation to tell us how to get our kids outdoors? Turn off the television, turn off the computer and games consoles, take away their ipods, DS and PSPs and simply send them outside! Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way against all those things, I know that technology plays a very important role in our lives – heck I’m a social media junky! But, as with everything in life, it needs to be used in moderation.
In our family we have very strict rules about when and where these gaming devices can be used. During school terms there are no ipods or computer games on weekdays and more often than not we will end up going a whole weekend without using them either as we are too busy doing other things. If we go to a restaurant they DO NOT come with us – we are there to have a meal as a family and part of that experience is to sit and have family discussions. If we visit with friends or family, or if they come to our home then likewise, the gaming consoles stay out of sight.
None of our children are old enough for Facebook and the like so it is not an issue we have had to deal with yet. I do know though that when that time does come we will have some serious discussions about boundaries and what is and isn’t appropriate.
If we don’t let all these items rule our lives it will be a natural transition for our kids to migrate back outside, just like we all did when we were younger. There is one problem though – I have difficulty letting my kids out of my sight! When I was younger we spent hours playing in the bush at the top of our street and while we encourage as much outdoors play as possible with our kids it is always when we can see them. I don’t hover or wrap my kids in cotton wool – I let them sort out their own problems and discover their own limitations but I just don’t feel safe about letting them go somewhere alone.
I often wonder if the world is a more dangerous place than it used to be or if we, as a society, (or maybe it’s just me) are more paranoid than our parents were. That’s a whole other blog post though – I think I’ve ranted enough for now!
So, in short, unplug and get outside! And if you do need some reminders of how to play outside and how much fun you can have – not just your kids but you as a whole family then by all means visit Nature Play WA because it really is full of fantastic ideas!