Why should we save Childhood?

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Boo inside an ENORMOUS Oak Tree Trunk #FreeNature

Childhood – an enormous word encompassing so much. There is such emphasis put on ‘childhood’ today and as parents it can feel very confusing knowing what you should give your child in order that they: ‘get the best’ childhood.

Of course, for every parent that means something different, perhaps a safe home, a garden, violin classes after school, private school, Steiner school, home-school, playdates, being vegetarian and on and on. There is a myriad of things we worry we should do more of, or cannot compete with, or simply cannot afford to give.

Yet research has found, over and over again, just giving a child the chance to connect and be free with nature, dirt and the earth around them is, quite simply, one of the most vital and important experiences they can have.

Encouraging children to play by themselves is essential. Get them outside and away from screens. Let them roll in the grass, chase butterflies, make ‘perfume’, plant seeds, blow a fluffy seed clock, run barefoot in the grass, listen to the birds, poke holes with sticks, taste fresh berries off a tree, build a fairy house with leaves, moss, stones, talk to animals, trees, flowers, clouds, the moon. Just let them really feel. 

This natural play is the building blocks of intelligence. To discover how to feel connected with the earth and yourself, to know you can return, any time you need, and re-tune throughout your life. It is so simple and all we need to provide is a green space.

One uncluttered with screens, tests, exams, the pressures of what to look like, be like, speak like, act like – leave it all behind – un-necessary weight.

The value of creative and experimental play in childhood, and adulthood, is often undermined and we need to ensure that we, as guardians of the next generation, are strong enough to stand true to the simple values of letting the children of our future be free.

Be truly free to experiment, get dirty, to imagine, to really feel and to play with their beautiful and wild imagination.

Britain has plenty of parks and open spaces and it is up to us to try and get everyone out for a walk and to deeply breathe in fresh air.

This year the Save Childhood Movement is partnering with National Children’s Day UK (NCDUK) on 17th May to celebrate: The Science and Magic of Play. Here in Bath that celebration will be in partnership with The Forest of Imagination ( a four-day contemporary arts event in Queen Square). This will include of a number of free talks given by the likes of, Wendy Ellyatt, Chief Executive, Save Childhood Movement, Steve Chown, Director, Play England and James Findlay of The Play Foundation. To hear these inspiring speakers and to find out more go here.

I am not here for you…

With a rise in sex crimes in 2013, amid the Jimmy Saville scandals, news detailing a lone male intruder into Portuguese holiday apartments, and this week a ten year old boy is in court accused of raping his school mate in Primary School after watching online porn – do you wonder how we can protect a generation swamped in sexualised imagery, with easy access to porn, and who are drowning in their own critical self-doubt about how they should look and portray themselves both online and off?

Ban Facebook for under 18’s for a start I say.

I fell upon this beautiful video created to portray the simple yet inspiring work carried out by Brooklyn-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh on the streets of New York.

Fazlalizadeh talks to women about sexual harassment on the streets, how it makes them feel and what they would like to say in response to the men who belittle and demorailse these women on a daily basis.

Take a look and see for yourself…

Stop Telling Women To Smile from Dean Peterson on Vimeo.

Beholden to the boss

IMG_4200France, our perennial adversary, recently unveiled plans making it illegal to send work related emails to colleagues after the working day has finished. Yes, you heard me right – it will become illegal to write, open or send emails after 6pm.

This people – is downright bloody genius, don’t you think? Hang on I am just going to google this and check I have it right…

Ohhhkay – so it will not be actually illegal per se – but the Gallic country has indeed introduced new rules designed to ‘protect’ workers in media and consultation. These rules ask workers to switch off their work phones and stop checking work emails after 6pm and before 9am.

This intentional disconnect is such a bloody fantastic idea. In this crazy century we are in we need to be given permission to have down time, to eat supper without a device, to understand that it is just, no MORE, important to have a life outside of the workplace – and that the internet will not explode if we don’t check it every five minutes.

If you work from home it is exceptionally tricky to locate the off button – much to the delight of your employer – and much to the frustration of your family.

It has become more and more acceptable to work at all hours of day and night. If a client or colleague emails and expects a response, the rub is that if you don’t respond you feel guilty and if you do, you feel pissed off…

We feel beholden to that all encompassing dictator; the internet, all its devices and ways of luring you in.

But what if we were all on the same page – that we could relax in the knowledge that we are having our, much needed, time out altogether – without the fear that someone else will jump on your bandwagon just because you are happily taking a walk or sharing a meal.

This simple yet brilliant idea is one we, I think, should fight to adopt – here on our shores, where working all hours has crept into our lives and is fast becoming the norm.

So are you in with me?

Just say NO

I’ve decided, in my own 21st century capitalistic fashion, to: just say NO to my children when it comes to ALL things digital.

Tucker, it turned out, was right.Image

Just saying NO is a bloody marvellous plan, you should try it sometime.

It is dead easy to give in and just say yes, because, quite frankly, the buggers go on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and…oh it takes a lot of balls to say nae – but believe me it is well worth the sulking.

Without banging on about the currently thought, irksome consequences of too much screen time, it is, for me, more than that. I am fed up to the eyeballs with finding my mobile ensconced under a duvet and smeared in sticky finger marks, and my computer tuned in to all things friv. Not to mention the endless arguments that ensue between the offspring when one of the buggers has got hold of said device; the others spend an unprecedented amount of time arguing for their turn. Which is enough to drive anyone loco.

It could be construed as harsh, cruel or even petty of me. But goddam it these kids have got the rest of their adult lives to be immersed in mobile technology, this is one part of modern living that is not going to swing by unnoticed.

There is an enormous amount of pressure to conform, to buy into the ipods, Xboxes and whatever else exists out there and it takes a lot of courage to go against the general pack. But in the longer term your child will be better for it, they will be forced to work out what to do with themselves – and that is quite a skill  – we don’t want them to be reliant on a small plastic box for everything.

I know I am not alone in refusing to allow my kids to watch TV everyday and to never let them watch TV in the car, we don’t want them to turn out like this: (sorry Roland).Image

It seems obvious that it is totally unnessecary, whatever happened to conversations? Arguments? Picnics and the like. Car-travel across Europe begins and ends for us with listening to some tunes, educating the children in The Style Council and The The or singing our hearts out and, always, being read fantastic stories by the heady heights of people like Stephen Fry, Alan Bennett, Roald Dahl and Simon Callow.

So what do you think? Do you think we should say No more often and bear the consequences? Or just go with the general flow?