I’m bored. I’m the chairman of the board.
Okay, neither of those things are true. I’m not the Chairlady of any board but I have, recently, been asked to be a board member of a new organisation, The Save Childhood Movement. It aims to look at the ways that the modern world’s rapidly changing environment is effecting childhood, invite experts from a myriad fields to weigh in on the issue, then come up with practical proposals for the future. And I’m not bored. I’m really excited.
We have an amazing, star studded advisory board but now we need to hear from the real experts – parents. And I don’t mean that in an empty, head-patting sort of way. These things are made by parental involvement. What are your most pressing concerns? What needs examining and debating and what can’t wait for that? What needs putting right, right now?
One of the things we’re doing is launching National Children’s Day UK and after months of research, debate, late night scribbling and head scratching it’s finally upon us… May 15th – two day’s time – is henceforth declared an annual day to celebrate kids’ crazy, anarchic, brilliant and inspirational minds. A day to pat yourself on the back for surviving another year, take a step back, and let the kids and their explosive imaginations take the lead.
The National Trust, Play England, Eureka (the national children’s museum) and loads of other organisations are on board.
One thing we’re asking families to do is ask their children what their perfect day would look like. If they had an entire day with no school runs, no mummy-and-daddy-have-to-be-at-work-in-half-an-hour, no limits at all on their imagination, what would they do and who would they spend it with?
What do our kids really value? What would yours say?
I’ve written a bit about it, today, over on the National Trust’s Outdoor Nation blog. Want to see it? Well, I’ve copied it in here, just in case…
Where are mini conservationists, zoologists and explorers made? Is it on their first trip to London Zoo, squinting through the bars at a Sumatran Tiger taking his tea? Or the first school field trip, peering out at a sodden landscape from under an anorak hood? No. In my experience, for my son at least, it happened two weeks ago, in a friend’s garden, while I was looking the other way.
After half an hour of intense silence, prodding a stick into a pond and examining frogspawn, he asked to take some home. We scooped some into a jam jar, filled an old coke bottle with pond water, and cycled home via a nerve-racking and leaky trip round Sainsburys.
They lived in a yellow bucket in the garden, under the grave and vigilant guard of an enrapt two year old. And last week, they turned into tadpoles.
Our kids don’t always need us to prompt and prod their enthusiasm for learning. That instinct, that spark of curiosity and need to explore how the world works, is innate within them. And sometimes, we blundering well-meaning adults who have lost that connection with the world, just get in the way. We talk about the importance of play, but then trip ourselves up with the urge to quantify it in adult terms – what impact is it having? What are its results or its ‘value’?
As Bill Gates has said, “If you’ve ever watched a child with a cardboard carton and a box of crayons create a spaceship with cool control panels, or listened to their improvised rules… they you know that this impulse… at the heart of innovative childhood play…. is also the essence of creativity.”