Sunday, 7 August 2016

Creativity and the humble stick by Dawn Finch

It’s summer and so my blog posts inevitably get shorter and more summery. Like many writers I am greatly inspired by the Great Outdoors and I was very pleased to see that the National Trust this year have launched their summer campaign by linking time spent outdoors with creativity. Their latest research shows that 84% of parents believe that playing outdoors makes their children more imaginative and creative, while 96% felt it was important for children to have a connection with nature.

Recent research has shown that children are now spending only half as much time playing outdoors as their parents’ generation did. Many studies over the last decade have demonstrated the need to challenge that. The ATL (the largest teaching union) published a report in 2012 - Playing To Learn - which specifically mentions the educational importance of outdoor play, and explains how to make sure that time is made in the curriculum for this. Education Scotland have a strong focus on the needs for outdoor time and the importance this has in a well-rounded curriculum. Academic research gives us a great deal of evidence to support the fact that outdoor play makes for a happier child who achieves better results and is more able to cope with the stresses of life.

Anyone for Pooh Sticks?
This year National Trust are keen to challenge the perception that every child needs expensive gadgets and schemes by launching their campaign to show that this year’s most desirable toy should be….. the humble stick! I love this idea and it was, in fact, the toy I played with the most as a child and to this day I find it difficult to walk over a bridge without playing Pooh Sticks.
I grew up spending a great deal of time outdoors and it is still my preferred thing when I am stuck on something and need to refresh my ideas. When I have writer’s block and can’t get on with my writing I will take myself off for a long walk and mull things over, and it always works. Being outside clears my thoughts and fills me with fresh air and fresh energy. When the yawns take me over, I know that it is time to get outdoors. Obviously with my non-fiction writing I have every reason to get outdoors, but I write about it because I love it.

A classic Temple of the Humble Stick
I do like to think that not all children are cooped up indoors over the whole summer, and are able to find places to get out and make a connection with nature. I often find dens built in the woods by kids, and I regularly find teens swimming in the rivers or halfway up a tree. I think that a lot of blockages to getting outdoors are from parents who are averse to risk, and I hope that this does not stop the next generation from being outdoors and from gaining a greater understanding of the world around them by creative interaction. They don't need to be in organised fun for every minute of the holidays, just let them have some time to run free.

I’m very lucky that when I’m up in Scotland I have some amazing walks right on my doorstep, but I can still do this in cities and I always manage to find an interesting and inspiring route to kickstart my thinking. We are blessed with a country full of green spaces that are free and open to all. I’m curious as to what other writers do, and I’m sure that many of you also have lots of times outdoors. What’s your favourite way to refresh your thinking?

If you have children and are stuck for ideas this summer, have a look at these websites and get wild outdoors! These all have lots of free wildlife and outdoor activities and ideas for families. All of these websites will help you find outdoor fun that is free and on your doorstep. It's not only fun, you will be supporting creativity and feeding imaginations too.

The National Trust has lots of ideas for this summer, including details of their research.

The Canal and River Trust has some fun-packed maps of the canal and river networks of the UK

The RSPB site has all sorts of activities for families and stuff to do from your backgarden, to the local park, and right out into the wilds.

The Wildlife Trust website will help you find your nearest wildlife trust, including marine trusts.

If you are in Scotland - you need the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

With the Butterfly Conservation Trust you can spot and identify beautiful butterflies and help with conservation too. Lots of great wildlife ideas on their website.

The Woodland Trust has some brilliant free stuff and activities to keep you all entertained while you are out in the woods.

Please used the comments to add your book recommendations too!

Dawn Finch
Children's writer and librarian
President, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

Latest non-fiction - Skara Brae from Raintree Press

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

Very interesting! I bike across a bridge in a nearby park to go to work, and when they were young, my children called it "Poohsticks Bridge"! Children certainly need to get outside a lot more. Thanks for posting about an important subject.