Not winners of the Olympics. Nor are they the most wealthy in the world (although that might be true). The above ranking refers to the worst countries in the developed world for getting children outside and playing.
I'm a little shocked. More than a little shocked to be honest. I expected America to be pretty rubbish at encouraging outdoor play, but Australia? With all that open space and the wonderful environment? I am, ashamedly, not surprised to see that the UK is third though; the health and safety police combined with the fear factor of child abduction has fostered a generation of children who have an outdoor, roaming space which is 90% smaller than we did as children.
For the past sixteen months I've been a willing participant in the Country Kids weekly linky run over on the Coombe Mill blog. Country Kids is the brainchild of Fiona, who owns Coombe Mill (a family farm holiday location), and promotes outdoor play with your children. It doesn't have to be in the country (which is just as well as ours are at the beach) but it does have to be in the fresh air and encouraging a 'natural childhood'.
This 'Natural Childhood' I speak of is a movement to promote getting our children back into nature and helping them to rediscover the joys of outdoor play. On Saturday we were the guests of the National Trust at Nymans in Sussex, to find out about the 'Natural Childhood' campaign being led by many people including David Bond, Project Wild Thing, the National Trust, and many other agencies. All are united in their desire to see children climbing trees, getting mucky, and having old fashioned, outdoor fun.
Exactly what Country Kids stands for.
There'll be more about the campaign in another post, but for now I want to document a major change in my son.
This is The Boy who couldn't balance a year ago, who had minimal confidence in his physical ability, who wouldn't contemplate a cargo net or three step ladder. The concept of tree climbing? Never!
The middle photograph above shows The Boy arguing with Rob Cowen who was trying to tell him that he couldn't climb the pine tree as it had no lower branches. The Boy didn't believe him. He tried (and failed) but the point is that he tried determinately. Disgruntled, he went and climbed another tree.
And then, Rob showed us how to make a den. A den suitable for sleeping out in (if you are so inclined, I'm not) and one that was incredibly warm and dry.
The Boy was in his element. That smile is not one which he puts on for the camera; it is pure joy.
Ticking off another items from their '50 Things To Do Before You're 11 & ¾', the bloggers' children then all sat around a campfire and toasted marshmallows. We had a minor incident when The Boy was daintily eating his in several bites and dropped it on the floor, but he soon made sure that didn't happen again by shoving his replacement in all in one!
We jumped up and down in muddy puddles, we raced up and down hills, we made friends. But above all else we had fun!
And if ever there was proof that the outdoors is good for a child, making him happy, raising his self-esteem, and giving him self-worth and confidence in his capabilities, surely this is it?