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Getting Kids Back into Nature

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ant-logo-s-.jpg Getting Kids Back into Nature - Nature Playscapes article by Outdoor Gear Australia

Having kids & an adventurous family lifestyle...

"Having been a professional Youth Worker, Client Manager and a Youth & Community Development Officer for most of my adult working life, what I have learnt about working with kids is this:  All children need the outdoor environment, they also need risk and adventure in their everyday lives. Children need to learn how to manage those risks and they also need to learn how to manage both self and their own behaviours. Obviously for this to work well, they also need heaps of encouragement, unconditional love, support, mentoring and a truck load of positive parenting.

Sure, we agree, kids can slow you down just a little, but they hardly have to end your family's adventurous lifestyle. From 5 years of age upwards, we took our young Jordan everywhere we went: on our numerous wilderness 4WD drives, youth activity bus trips, climbing mountains, bush walking, rafting down white water rivers, canoeing lakes, short day adventure picnic hikes, and especially overnight camping throughout the South West.

At 8 years of age, we took our son white water rafting down the Collie River.  Why you ask?  We ask why not?  We have been doing this with 8+ year olds for a couple of decades now and we have never lost one yet!  Some people have caustically criticized us for professionally conducing such rafting trips for kids of this age.  However, what they simply do not understand is that the perception of risk - for conducting this type of adventure - is far greater than the actual reality of the 'level' of risk the kids are actually exposed to on such an excellent training day. I am convinced that our white water staff and river guides have enjoyed those rafting days far more than the very kids themselves did!  It's all about 'perception' of risk and managing those risks, is it not?

As an outdoor family, we still keep discovering new tracks to explore throughout WA, with finding novel ways to keeping active, fit and in touch with the great outdoors and the natural environment. We even had a lease on a wilderness cabin down in the Walpole Wilderness Area on the edge of the Frankland River, right in the middle of nowhere! 

In all reality, as a professional wilderness guide over the past 35 years, introducing children to the great outdoors — be it on one of our countless 10-day or even 15-day school holiday adventure trips, abseiling & climbing, wild caving, or on those numerous white water rafting weekend trips or canoeing down rivers — has been enlightening to say the least.  The sheer number of exceptional stories of transformation and changed lives by the very kids themselves, has been the mainstay that had kept me going in such a profession. What an opportunity!"    (Andrew Stuart, Outdoor Gear Australia, on talking about the WYLD Project)

Active outdoor play goes far beyond that...

"Todays parents often worry that their children will be disadvantaged if they are not engaged in constant learning, but child development experts reasure us that active outdoor play goes far beyond that to prepare children for academic and social success. Through expert analysis, parents are now shown how creative and spontaneous outdoor play fosters healthy mental and social development in children and sets the stage for academic learning in the first place.

The health consequenses for children resulting from the disappearance of outdoor play are already apparent.  Children's Mental Health exerts now report that "growing numbers of children are suffering needlessly because their emotional, behavioural and developmental needs are not being met by the very institutions that were specifically created to take care of them."   (David Elkind, The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally)

Natural playgrounds should be the standard for all our playgrounds...

"Natural Playgrounds should be the standard for all our playgrounds. They truly connect children with nature through play and are a sort of classroom for the next generation of environmental stewards. Getting young people interested in nature and replacing screen time with green time is what the David Suzuki Foundation is hoping to achieve through connecting kids with nature. Helping young people develop this love of nature is key to understanding that we are all deeply interconnected and interdependent on the natural world, and each other."   (Dr. David Suzuki)

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