A CHILDHOOD spent scrubbing surf and sand out of hair, scrambling up trees and sneaking dirty clothes into the wash could be a thing of the past, says not-for-profit group Nature Play.
Concerned that today’s kids are more likely to be lost in the couch than the outback, Nature Play is organising a conference in Fremantle to highlight the effects a sedentary life can have on youngsters’ health, well-being and development.
The one-day event on August 28 is packed with experts on topics from children’s physical and mental health to education.
Keynote speakers include former WA chief scientist and neuroscientist Prof Lyn Beazley, naturopath and Harvard University lecturer Dr Alan Logan and internationally renowned specialist in childhood allergies Prof Susan Prescott.
Nature Play was developed by the WA sport and recreation department after it noticed how many kids were struggling with sports, and is funded by 16 partners, including the Australian Medical Association and Conservation Council of WA.
“Nature Play is a response to a very modern dilemma around childhood,” says CEO Griffin Longley.
“This is the first generation in human history that’s largely indoors and sedentary. We don’t know what that means [but what we do know] is that there’s been a rise in non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease-heart attacks in juveniles.”
Mr Longley says 14 per cent of school aged children have a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression.
But kids who have ‘unstructured’ play have improved cognitive flexibility and self-esteem, and less stress.
Mr Longley says it’s important not to blame parents.
“[We] have less and less time and are parenting in the wake of new technology — that has given us fantastic things — but we can’t handle. In previous generations, if we needed advice we’d just go to our parents or grandparents. [Modern] parents don’t have that collective, built-up wisdom…and though they’re paying more attention and listening, fear can get in the way of a free-ranging childhood.”
by SOPHIE MOORE