The difference between my childhood and that of my children in many respects is staggering – in particular the advancement in technology and the onset of TV on demand, wi-fi everywhere you go, tablets and smart phones. The children of today have everything at their fingertips and don’t really have to wait for anything. All too often it’s easier to let them have a go on an iPad or watch something on Netflix or Amazon Prime. When you contrast my children’s childhood and that of my parents and my grandparents the difference is off the chart. Two or three generations removed and the landscape is unrecognisable.
Everyone has seen old black and white photos of the 1920s/30s or 1950s/60s with kids running round playing in the street, skipping, playing in make-shift go-karts, playing leapfrog or football or cricket in the middle of the road. How many like photos do you have of your children doing the same thing? Not too many I bet… The merest step close to the edge of the pavement and onto a road sees them being pulled back and chastised and re-told to ‘stop, look and listen’, before even thinking about crossing. Well, this weekend just gone, we and our neighbours were lucky enough to go back in time again at our third annual Street Party. It was all part of the initiative for the Great Get Together which came about following the death of the murdered MP Jo Cox. And what a wonderful legacy her family have created for her.
For us adults, it was a chance to spend time with our neighbours and to watch our children enjoy a freedom they rarely experience. Our road and surrounding roads were shut off to traffic for two days. When we asked Tessa what the best bit of the street party was she instantly responded with being able to cycle on the roads. She will always remember that and is already excited about next year, as is Tilly. Toby will equally love it again – this year he walked further with his walker than he has done his whole life and loved every second!
As well as cycling or scooting on the roads, the kids were also able to have a go at circus skills, have a tug of war, play table tennis, sit and listen to live music and have pizza from a mobile pizza oven, have glitter tattoos painted on them and enjoy an ice cream from an ice cream van. All without having to worry at all about cars coming every few minutes. It was exhilarating and enlightening all at the same time. Everyone loved it and it reminded me entirely of the importance of letting our children experience outdoor play. Once you strip back the technology they have available and transport them back to the state of play we had as kids (or our parents did), not only is it great for them and their health, but they actually bloody love it too! Here’s a selection of some of the other best bits from the street party:
This made me think of whether the kids do get enough time outdoors and what, if anything, we can do to let them have more time playing outside. On reflection I’m happy to say that our kids do get a fair amount of time to ‘play out’, albeit not in the road! We have plenty of cycle/scoot trips to the local park and let them run around. They play sports outside and are always in the garden in good weather, running about or on the trampoline. It’s so important for their development – getting fresh air, getting muddy at the mud-kitchen, being active and burning off energy. It also hardens them up too – dealing with bumps and bashes, climbing trees, dealing with a nettle sting – all mini rights of passage in their young lives and all attributable to the great outdoors – most of which is also free!
Holidays are also a great time to get outdoors and do stuff together as a family. Much of this is exactly the same as when we were children – playing in the sand, exploring rockpools, splashing or swimming in the sea, crab fishing … all left lasting impressions and memories on my childhood and I’m glad my children are experiencing the same things … and that I get to share the experiences with them and watch their joy unfold before my eyes! We did loads of this on our recent holiday in Devon and have done it before (and will do so again!) on trips to North Wales. Not only does it allow the kids chance to explore and get a little messy, but they’re learning all the time – about nature – sea animals and the like, different textures – sand, rock, seaweed, asking questions, working on physical attributes such as balance or swimming and even climate change when we did a litter pick at a beach!
So I guess my point is to keep reminding myself we need to get outside and enjoy ourselves! There’s so much to be gained by time outdoors. Our parents and our generation have seemingly done ok as regards our development and our children have great opportunities in terms of technology and the changing world around us. But they’re also faced with different threats, such as climate change or obesity and I think it’s important that we as parents help them to love nature and the great outdoors, so they want to protect it. So, come rain or shine … or snow (see below), let them play outside and have the experience of doing so.
The street party allowed the kids a taste of what yesteryear was like. And they loved it. They loved the freedom to roam the roads and to get out and play. To draw on the roads and footpaths with chalk, to kick balls around, or play giant connect-4 in the street. I very much hope our streets do the same each year for as long as we live here. Playing outside also brings people together, whether it be at a street party, or talking to others out walking or at a park. With technology removed and eyes up instead of eyes down, as the Jo Cox ‘Great Get Together’ mantra goes … we all have ‘More in Common’ than we might care to believe, particularly when it comes to our children and wanting the best for them.
So I’ll leave you now with my favourite photo from the street party weekend – my little man, Toby Tornado tearing up the streets on his walker. Loving life and standing tall. Long may it continue!
I hope you enjoyed the read. See you all soon for a proper look back on my shared parental leave. Thanks for reading.
All the best,