According to research conducted by One Poll in May 2010 for UK family plaster brand, Elastoplast, 85% of children age 6-12 are longing for more adventure in their lives. What’s more 85% of their parents think adventure’s an important part of children’s lives. So what’s going on here? Everyone thinks adventure’s a good idea but somehow it’s just not happening.
It’s said that over half of children have never camped out, not even in their back garden, nor laid down to watch the stars in the night sky or have watched the sun rise. Just look at these shocking stats from this poll of 1500 parents and 1103 kids in the UK:
– 50% of kids had never taken part in any adventure sports.
– 41% of kids had never taken part in a scavenger hunt.
– 44% of parents played outside as a child more than their kids do.
– 38% of parents said they’re more protective of kids than their parents were.
– 40% of parents said they don’t have the time or money to do adventurous activities with their kids.
Of course it’s hard to know how generalisable such findings are but in this sample there’s more than a hint of cotton wool parenting. But should we be bothered? Does it really matter if kids don’t adventure?
Well we think yes. The value of outdoor adventures, little or large, cannot be underestimated. And it’s not just about thrills and spills or building a bank of rose tinted memories of childhood. Whether it’s building a tree house, sitting out to watch the stars, camping in the yard, or exploring the local environment on foot or by bike; active adventures bring real health and developmental benefits. When children are helped and allowed to experience risk in a controlled environment it helps develop their ability to deal with it and builds self-confidence. As child psychologist Dr Mandy Bryon from Great Ormond Street Hospital puts it, “It helps children become resilient and gives them independence to think for themselves.” Who doesn’t want that for the children? Active adventure helps develop healthy, resilient, independent kids, it readies them for dealing with the big wide world.
But it’s not just kids that need skills to adventure safely. Perhaps parents too need some too so they have the confidence to lead mini family adventures or to give their kids the skills needed to be safe when they’re out and about on their own.
Of course it’s a parent’s job to worry about their children’s safety, but it’s also their job to help their kids develop the skills and judgement needed to be safe when Mum or Dad’s not around.
Have you ever talked with your kids about dealing with risks or assessing danger? Many parents haven’t yet it’s a simple first step in helping develop your child’s know-how and your confidence that they know what to do in different situations. It’s easy to teach even a young child to memorise simple things like their address and phone numbers and to make sure they know how to get help if they need it. You don’t need to wait for a thunderstorm, an accident or until they get lost in the woods to talk about how to deal with it. And you don’t need to know what to do yourself in every situation; you just need to know how to find out. Talk about the activities your kids want to do, think about what could go wrong, talk about how best to handle that situation and if you don’t know what to do, look it up together or get some advice from someone with experience and learn together. It’s great way to coach your kids and build your and their confidence that they know what to do.
Kids want more adventure. They need it. It’s good for them. Parents need to teach them how to do it safely. And then let them off the leash. Gradually!
All sources refer to research commissioned by One Poll, May 2010 on behalf of Elastoplast UK. 1500 respondents were parents of children aged 6-12, and 1103 respondents were children aged 6-12.
Stuart runs The Family Adventure Project, a leading family adventure travel blog.
Banish routine. Embrace adventure. Every day. We’re about making family life more active, adventurous, creative and interesting through everyday micro-adventures and once in a lifetime experiences.