'Natural Childhood' With The National Trust (Country Kids)

  1. USA
  2. Australia
  3. UK

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!

tree climbing

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.

den building

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 & ΒΎ', 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!

natural childhood

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?

happy child

coombe mill

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  1. says

    Sounds like the perfect day. This is what my boys get up to. It is a regular thing in our house to be out and about doing things outside. They think nothing of getting muddy and having fun wherever they are

  2. Kara says

    You have taken some truly stunning pics and I'm impressed with the speediness of your post too!!
    I'm still shocked by the info we all got, but have now instilled the one hour rule at home – they get an hour on the computer for every hour outside!!

  3. says

    3 cheers for a Natural Childhood. I am delighted to be joined by the National Trust in my bid to encourage outdoor play. Thank you so much for the lovely mention of Country Kids and for supporting me week in week out whatever the weather! I think your reasons for why the UK is so poor at outdoor play is spot on, wouldn't it be wonderful to think we had done a little bit to shift the trend.

  4. says

    Ah what a champ! And I can testify to his tree climbing skills – he WILL be in the Olympics one day (just as soon as they introduce tree climbing as an olympic sport – obvious omission, no?!)

  5. says

    He looks like a boy in his element – the great outdoors. i love the one of him underneath the homemade shelter – such a naturally happy and contented face. brilliant. so glad he had such a wonderful adventure at the weekend . he has come such a long way πŸ™‚

  6. says

    Such a great project! I'm also surprised to see Australia up there. Hopefully we can get us out of the top 3. We love being outside but I know so many families who hardly leave Te house. x

  7. says

    I am shocked at Australia too… I love your post and photos. It shows how important and exciting and fun and healthy it is to get children outside to play and discover the environment outdoors. And that tree climbing is just brilliant πŸ™‚

  8. says

    That looks like so much fun!

    I have to confess to being guilty of not taking H outside as much as I should, for all sorts of reasons which really are just excuses I suppose. He is not a fan of the biting cold and wind we have at the moment (neither am I!) but he does benefit from outdoors play!

  9. says

    Wow what a day, and the Boy looks so adventurous! I don't think I'd ever think to let Little Z climb trees when he's older but it's definitely something they should do isn't it? The marshmallow incident made me smile πŸ™‚

  10. says

    It's us as adults that raise all the objections – too cold, too wet, too muddy, too much hassle, but when I do get out there it's easier than being at home – kids totally entertain themselves with a few sticks and a puddle!
    I'm sorry I had to miss this, I'd like to get involved further down the line, if only to make me remember on a regular basis how much they enjoy the outdoors!

  11. says

    Ah, now this is marketing to an adult (I've trundled over here from freeourkids where I was saying, much like Helen above, that it's us adults that need marketing to about going out, not the kids!) – I just need one of those snow suits like The Boy and I recon I could enjoy this too!

  12. says

    This looks like such a wonderful event, and just perfect for you. The Boy looks completely in his element and it is wonderful to see him confidently tackling the great outdoors. You must be very proud of him

  13. says

    Im still reeling at the Aus revelation too!

    Funny when you mentioned about the boy coming out of his shell. Having never met him before I just thought he was a very confident outgoing little boy on Saturday. So it's lovely to read the story of how that has evolved.

    Lovely to meet you.

    Sarah x

  14. says

    It is sad that we are third though isn't it. I often take my children to the park and find it sad that they are so empty – this is even different to when my 16 year old was younger.

    Glad to hear The Boy is coming on so well. I really ought to look at that 50 things list and start trying to achieve them with my boys.

    I have voted for you in the Mads – best of luck x

  15. says

    I've just seen Chelsea Mamma's post and was shocked at the statistics for Australia too. I love Country Kids and it's really encouraged us to get outside more which is really good for everyone.

    Looks like you had a really, really fun day and got some brilliant photos! (belatedly popping over from last week's Country Kids πŸ˜‰ )

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