Every Child Wild: Techno Kids

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This is my next post written for the Wildlife Trust’s #EveryChildWild campaign, all about getting children outdoors and enjoying nature. You can find more information here.

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How do you tempt a twenty-first century child away from the thrills of Minecraft, YouTube and iPad screens? Technology has become a staple part of children’s lives; even if parents try to reduce their child’s dependence on the digital world, most schools now include hours of computer time and they are bound to be jealous of friends’ gadgets. So how can we get them to switch off and go outside – and better yet, do it voluntarily?

My uncle thought up a superb solution. It was autumn half-term, Christmas had already become a financial drain, and he didn’t fancy spending limited holiday time in motorway traffic. So, he decided that he and my two cousins, both emotionally invested in their tablets and consoles, would celebrate half-term with a family ‘No-Tech Day’ at home.

They rustled up a fire in the garden, surrounded by crisp autumn leaves and robin song, and cooked sausages and fajitas over the flames. They set up targets on the garden wall and practised air-rifle shooting until it was too dark to see – ten year old Daisy was particularly pleased to tell me she got a bullseye! They boiled water in a kelly kettle and roasted marshmallows on twigs, before coring fresh apples and filling them with dark sugar and raisins. These were wrapped in foil over the fire for a sumptuous outdoor dessert, although one of them accidentally exploded…

When I asked if they enjoyed themselves, both of them agreed it was one of the best days they’d spent as a family. Daisy loved the fresh air, and Joe, who is thirteen, said he usually spent his free time playing computer games or doing homework. He thought he’d find it hard being away from the small screen, but he loved being outdoors doing something different and didn’t touch the computer until the next morning.

Technology can be a dream when it comes to keeping children entertained; gadgets are fantastic tools for educating and inspiring everyone, but it’s important to remember that they are a new addition to childhoods. Before my generation, there were no computers to keep children busy. They had to use their imaginations and curiosity to explore the world around them, and we mustn’t forget how important the natural world is in the creation of young, healthy minds. From fostering frogspawn to climbing trees and inhaling the salty air of our coasts, interacting with the wild is vital for children to develop. And fortunately, nature is an awful lot cheaper than a PlayStation 4…

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