I first heard of Project Wild Thing a few months ago on Twitter. My first reaction was ‘They stole my name!’ because I co-founded an outdoor playgroup a few years ago with the name ‘Wild Things’ (If you are interested have a look here to see what kind of things we get up to.)
My righteous indignation is of course unfounded for two reasons. Firstly, we blatantly stole the name from the celebrated and brilliant book ‘Where the Wild Things Are‘ by Maurice Sendak and, secondly, Project Wild Thing is about all the reasons that we first started our group.
I went to see a screening of the documentary ‘Project Wild Thing’ last week. If you haven’t seen it, the basic premise is that the producer David Bond is the ‘Marketing Director for Nature’. He talks about facing the commercialisation of childhood (and of all out lives) head on. He proposes that we use the very tools that have diverted us from the great outdoors to re-introduce us and our children to nature and all its glory. He asks how can we reconnect our lives with nature, whilst still accepting the change that has been wrought in our lives by the pervading presence of technology. His solution is the project itself, by drawing attention to the issue and creating debate perhaps people will give more serious thought to getting their children outside.
Kicking off the project we are encouraged to make a pledge to swap screen time for ‘wild time’. Just half an hour a day could have a huge impact. Project Wild Thing creates a community to share ideas for things to do outdoors and access them with the ‘Wild Time’ App. Clever stuff.
Of course for me the ultimate way to enjoy ‘wild time’ is camping. You might call it a full immersion technique. My children feel very comfortable being outside and they have discovered both for themselves and through us, a myriad of fun activities that can be enjoyed outside. However, in the winter months it does become harder to keep that contact going.
I love going for walks in the countryside, my oldest daughter is beginning to get as much pleasure from walks as I do but the youngest is still unconvinced. Geocaching helps but still it may be that walking just isn’t for her. She has a huge creative streak so perhaps a hobby that takes her outside such as painting or photography will eventually be her thing. For now I make sure we walk to and from school as often as we can, even if it is raining. We go blackberry picking in autumn, we visit beautiful woods and search out new and unusual places to visit. We borrow the neighbours dog for a walk. We use the car as little as possible and we try to limit screen time. But it isn’t always easy.
I want my children to feel their connection to the world around them; to value their world and to have a sense of perspective about their lives. I do believe that spending time outside as a child can develop an ability to enjoy solitude and access a state of mind that enhances mental health and well being – happiness!
It is a really important part of childhood and if Project Wild Thing can raise awareness and encourage us to make that extra effort it is indeed a very good thing.