ARE the UK’s children the first generation to lose contact with the natural world?

A new movement certainly thinks so, and has launched a ground-breaking campaign to ‘re-wild’ the nations’ kids.

The children of today have never had it so good. They have healthier diets, better schooling and can expect to live longer than any previous generation.

The all-conquering domination of the internet, with its seductive charms of online gaming, iPods, tablet computers, smart phones and social media, also means that children’s age-old gripe of being bored is a complaint rapidly in danger of becoming redundant.

It’s not all rosy though.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, who as children would regularly spend hours playing outdoors, today’s generation spend an inordinate amount of time sitting indoors transfixed to the flicker of a computer or TV screen.

A growing number of people believe that, while this access to ever-more technology and material goods has its gains, it also means the loss of something equally, if not more, important; the natural world.

With this in mind, a coalition of more than 370 organisations, including the RSPB, the National Trust, Play England and the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, have come together under the banner of the Wild Network in attempt to ‘re-wild’ our children.

The Wild Network wants parents to encourage their children to swap thirty minutes of screen time for an extra half an hour of wild time every day.

This, they believe, could help increase levels of physical activity, alertness and ultimately improve well-being while reducing childhood stress and combating the UK’s spiralling obesity epidemic.

One parent who supports this campaign more than anyone is David Bond, a father-of-two who is working with branding and outdoor experts to develop and launch a campaign to get children to engage with nature, or ‘the ultimate, free, wonder-product’.

Together, they have created a film, ‘Project Wild Thing’, showing Bond getting his own children into the joys of nature, and now showing at cinemas across the country.

“Research clearly shows that being in nature improves children’s health, reduces stress and boosts wellbeing. I’m not aiming to make parents feel guilty about allowing their children to play computer games. I wanted to understand why my children’s childhood is so different from mine, whether this matters and if it does, what I can do about it.

“Project Wild Thing’ isn’t some misty eyed nostalgia for the past; we need to make more space for wild time in children’s daily routine, freeing this generation of kids to have the sort of experiences that many of us took for granted. It’s all about finding wildness on your doorstep and discovering the sights, sounds and smells of nature, whether in a back garden, local park or green space at the end of the road.”

Bond acknowledges that as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, access to the outdoors in the UK is increasingly becoming a question of wealth but he argues that education is key to ironing out these inequalities.

“Children growing up in poverty are nine times less likely to be able to access quality natural spaces than those from affluent homes,” he explains.

“It is insane, given the health benefits of time spent outdoors, that the National Curriculum for England published this year has reduced requirements for nature and outdoor time.”

But is a lack of connection with nature something we should really be concerned about? Or is the whole project little more than a marketing gimmick? Andy Simpson, chair of the Wild Network, firmly believes the former.

“The tragic truth is that kids have lost touch with the outdoors in just one generation,” he said. “Time spent outdoors is down, roaming ranges have fallen drastically, activity levels are declining and the ability to identify common species has been lost.

“New research illustrates the scale of the challenge with only one in five children aged eight to twelve years old having a connection with nature. With many more parents becoming concerned about the dominance of screen time in their children’s lives and growing scientific evidence that a decline in active time is bad news for the health and happiness of our children, we all need to become marketing directors for nature.”

n Project Wild Thing is on general release in cinemas nationwide. For more information visit