Green Lions

Project Wild Thing & Huff Post – The Real Stranger Danger

I have just been looking at my calendar. It is full. Whole days have disappeared under scribbles.

With just two months to go until the release of PROJECT WILD THING, my feature-length documentary about children and the outdoors, things are getting hectic.

But for now I am determined to forget all that. This week I am on holiday with my family.

I cannot wait for two weeks of being properly childish with my children. Having time to listen all the way through to that long rambling idea about how we could maybe build a fort out of that pile of logs. And then having the energy and the time to try it. It is the only way to iron out the cricks in my neck from too long hunched over a computer screen.

For me, holidays are about playing outside with my family. I love it. And my children seem OK with it too.

It is worth taking time to play with your kids. The other week I went on Channel 5 News. I was asked whether I get embarrassed playing outside. It is a fair question – plenty of parents do seem to get embarrassed. But I’m not. In fact I’m proud to say I play. I get the occasional funny look as I walk past pretending to be a robot (normally evil). But that is better than risking my children feeling awkward about playing outside, isn’t it?

Should parents worry about being playful with their kids (and other people’s) in public? Of course not – but it’s no wonder if they often are.

Last weekend Will Self wrote in the Mail on Sunday that he was questioned by police while out walking in the countryside with his son. They were following a tip-off from a security guard, suspicious of a man hanging around with an 11-year-old boy. With his gneiss face and loping gait, Will Self may not be immediately recognisable as a playful parent. But that’s no reason to cast him as the paedophile-bogeyman of popular imagination.

There’s a danger that our obsession with stranger danger will make us uncomfortable around children. A few years ago, a poll commissioned by Play England found that 44% of men would hesitate before helping a child in distress for fear of being thought a pedophile. This is insane. Everyday this causes misery as children are left alone and scared of the adults around them. And then once in a while it results in tragedy, as in the case of the man who ignored an unaccompanied toddler, who then fell into a pond and drowned. He did not stop to help, he said, in case he was suspected of abducting her.

We are scared to be seen with children and so afraid of what other people think that we have lost sight of how children feel.

Yes, they are worried about being approached by strangers. But they don’t want to worry about that all day. They want to spend more time outdoors with their family. That’s the conclusion of a recent UNICEF report on child wellbeing.

So this bank holiday weekend, please go outdoors with your children. It is free and fun. It is good for them and it is what they want (even if they don’t know it yet…)

If you’re stuck for things to do, here are a few of my family’s favourite wild activities…

There’s nothing like sitting in a tent with just a thin layer between you and a rainstorm to make you feel alive. My two children love lying in a tent with just canvas separating them from an imagined world of fairytale wolves and monsters. Luckily we got pretty amazing tents for all the family at, so we don’t have to worry about space or anything like that.

Swinging on trees
I am very happy lolling about on a branch. My children like it too. Sit them in a tree and they’ll rock up and down like miniature-sloths. I’m still better at it than them, though. There have to be some benefits of being a grown up….

Flying a kite
One of my most treasured film clips is of my 81-year-old mother and my 5-year-old daughter crying with laughter as they repeatedly crashed my new kite into a hill. When I was a child, my kite broke every other flight. Now, for £10, you can get a virtually indestructible kite. I reckon you can get easily 100 hours of pleasure out of that. Do the maths. It works out better than any other toy.

There are lots more ideas of things to do outdoors on the free Wild Time App, available on the App store for iPhones. Take it with you next time you get out into the wild…

PROJECT WILD THING is released at cinemas nationwide from 25th October. Keep up to date with the latest news by signing up to join the Project Wild Thing movement.

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