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.

British Happiness

In search of that elusive elixir: joie de vivre, I stumbled upon this BBC article which unviels the five happiest places in the UK, according to research from the government.

Tellingly all five are in remote regions – far from large, sprawling, commercial hubs; environments offering a simpler way to live, a sense of community, less industry, concrete and wide, open, green spaces.

But, we knew this already didn’t we? Or do we? Happiness seems to be far harder to achieve here in the West, despite the fact that we literally have everything we could ever possibly need, and some; and, in fact, some more – frothy milk anyone?

We strive to look right on the outside, yet can feel utterly desolate and confused on the inside. Living in a materialistic society makes it difficult to understand our role within it. Our choices are constantly motivated by consumerism – products the marketers create to help us establish our, apparent, uniqueness.

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As child education expert and author Sue Barker says in her fabulous book, 21st Century Girls; “Visual media demonstrated how products can define identity; they teemed with images of successful new men and women, attractively dressed, carefully coiffed, driving smart cars, eating exotic food, and living in swish designer homes. So we concentrate on earning enough money to pay for the perfect lifestyle, clinging to the belief that this would make everything come right in the end.”

She goes on to describe how family life has turned into family lifestyle…yikes.

However, this is not our faults; this is the product of us all coping in what is an increasingly global, capitalist world.

But we can make choices based on creating a simple family life rather than a family lifestyle. We find it easier to read the marketers message – a message that our children cannot decipher between.

It is easy to fill our children’s lives with gadgets, toys and screens, it is hard to say no. Yet we need to to help our children have lives and not lifestyles, not just now but when they become adults in this progressively faster technology-based world we inhabit.

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?