THE BLOG
25/10/2013 12:54 BST | Updated 25/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Re-wilding the Nation's Kids

Without really noticing we've been heading towards the end of the traditional outdoors childhood. Something that many millions of adults took for granted is becoming the exception rather than the norm for today's children, where-ever they live. Roaming ranges are down, physical activity is down and the ability of children to identify common wildlife is being lost.

I find it amazing to think that in just one generation the connection that children have had with nature for generations has changed so rapidly and fundamentally.

Without really noticing we've been heading towards the end of the traditional outdoors childhood. Something that many millions of adults took for granted is becoming the exception rather than the norm for today's children, where-ever they live. Roaming ranges are down, physical activity is down and the ability of children to identify common wildlife is being lost.

I vividly remember disappearing off on my bike in the schools holidays for hours on end or collecting conkers with friends by chucking large branches up into the trees.

There isn't one reason that this has happened, which makes the response more difficult and more challenging. It's a combination of barriers that have sprung up in the last thirty or so years from the growth in traffic to the rapid rise in technology in our daily lives to concerns about stranger danger and the lack of access to green space.

New research published last week showed the scale of the challenge - only one in five children now have a connection to nature. The implications of this are huge from the well-being and quality of life of children as they grow up to that connection with the natural world around them.

The time to act is now and that's why the release of the new documentary film Project Wild Thing in cinemas across the UK this weekend and the creation of the Wild Network is so important. It's about kick starting a revolution to reconnect kids with playing outdoors and getting closer to nature.

The body of evidence published by well-respected organisations such as Public Health England and the British Heart Foundation about the impact of an indoors and inactive childhood on the future of our children has become so overwhelming that it demands action.

The National Trust, RSPB, Play England, the Woodland Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, the Scouts Association, Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, local authorities, NHS Trusts, businesses, campaigners, schools, nurseries, outdoor activity organisations, and others, have all signed up to this 'once-in-a-generation opportunity' to breakdown the barriers to kids spending time outside playing rather than inside.

Over time the Wild Network will be publishing a series of specific policy asks aimed at local and national Governments - the aim of which will be to put this issue firmly on the agenda of the political parties in the run up to the 2015 General Election.

Three years in the making, Project Wild Thing, takes a funny and moving look at one of the most complex issues of the age - the increasingly fragile link between children and nature.

In a bid to get his daughter and son off the sofa and outdoors, filmmaker and father David Bond appoints himself as the Marketing Director for Nature. He wants his brand - nature - to stand out from the crowd of brands competing for their attention.

David works with branding and outdoor experts to develop and launch a campaign to get children outdoors and into nature - the ultimate, free wonder product. At the heart of the film is a deep concern about the loss of children's wild time.

On the back of Project Wild Thing the Wild Network's first campaign will be all about encouraging parents to swap some of their kids screen time for wild time. Swapping thirty minutes of screen time for an extra 30 minutes of wild time every day will do wonders for children in terms of their health and wellbeing.

Kids are, on average, spending around four and half hours a day looking at screens of varying sizes. This extra wild time represents about ten per cent of that time and is a great way to begin to get them into nature and outdoor play beyond playing at school or organised sports. It's amazing what you can do in a relatively short space of space and autumn is as good a time as any and don't forget that nature and the outdoors is open every day of the year.

I know from my two children how engrossed and enthusiastic they become about nature once they're outside and it really doesn't need much to get them going. It's about those first tentative steps and giving them the space and time to explore, collect and sometimes get very messy.

As a nation we need to try and weave the experience of nature into the everyday lives of children. It is about making nature seem normal rather than something you have to travel vast distances to see. After all nature starts as soon as we open our front door.

'Project Wild Thing' is showing in cinemas nationwide from today - projectwildthing.com/film