Over the Christmas break I went camping with my family. During our trip, I spent time thinking about why so many people change their practice on holidays compared to their ‘real life’. Everyone seems friendlier, happy and connected, “sure kids you can go hang out at the tent with the people you just met, we are on holidays why not?!” While my family and I are avid adventurers in our day to day life and anyone that follows me personally on social media knows this already, I yearn to understand why to some a holiday means to completely change everything they do. I have previously discussed my view on the modern day parent of convenient choices, ipads are easier than tantrums right? If you missed it, you can read more about it here. My question today is, Why is it when people leave the safe and security of their homes, they relax their attitudes and unknowingly allow children more freedom and opportunities to engage in uninterrupted play? Perhaps it is because the pressures of working the 9-5 clock aren’t there. It may be because they are relaxed physically and therefore less stressed or it could be because they are outdoors, engaged with nature and those happy feel good endorphins are jet skiing through their veins. I like to believe it is a good combination of all of the above. This theory leads me to wonder, why can’t we hold onto this feeling. Why can’t our holiday vibes become our ‘real life?’
As I observed fellow campers chat and meet their neighbours, myself included. I reflected on today’s fast paced society and how people live in neighborhoods without ever talking to the people they live so close to. Perhaps the smallness of tents and caravans force occupants to be outdoors and therefore interacting with others. It takes me back to the theory Richard Louv talks about in his book, ‘Last Child in the Woods’ where he discusses the change in history with houses now bigger, there is no need to seek space outdoors. Camping takes us back to basics, in an authentic way. Finally a solution to first world problems…. Knock down your houses people, replace it with a tent! But in all seriousness, why can’t this relaxed attitude and uncomplicated life become the norm? While I know not all people are in to camping, it’s just not their thing and work naturally consumes a hefty chunk of our day. It’s the nature connection, a basic instinct we are depriving ourselves of with our giant houses, car rides and long work hours that is the problem. Sadly the children of today are merely collateral damage of our actions, unintentionally of course. Their future is in our hands, it’s up to us as educators and parents to provide them with time and space to play outdoors. We need to disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other and nature. Louv additionally developed the term, ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’, a term used to describe the undeniable problem of today. If you haven’t read his book yet, I strongly recommend you do.
During our time away the children discovered a path that lead down the headland to a secluded rock heaven. This space quickly became known as ‘Our Secret Place’. Hours were spent sitting, exploring, discovering and hypothesizing. It became a place to build on their ideas, test out risky play and to just be. I observed as they worked together, supported each other, shared, argued and developed solutions. Eventually my role lessened as I took a step back and allowed time for them to independently explore. With my full trust they even began to go there together alone, racing back with stories to tell. There was an unspoken respect for the area, the secret place, it created sheer excitement and the thrill of new discoveries. On the first day, they discovered one fish carcass while the following day more had appeared. Lakyn, simultaneously fascinated and grossed out by the sight couldn’t look away but was reluctant to touch them. Harper took on the responsibility and made the decision to return them to the water. With her imagination fully unleashed and wild, she held the dead fish at arms length towards her brother and announced, “This is where the mermaids live, maybe they left them here.”