by Mike Bingley
Twenty-five years ago, children were recognized as having unique rights as part of the Convention on the rights of the child. They were recognized as having the right to a name, the right to be protected and the rights to play and learn respect for the natural environment. Canada ratified the convention in 1991. It is a part of our natural and cultural heritage as Canadians to play with and educate our children in the outdoors.
CWF knows that time in the outdoors increases a students aptitude for science, math and technology. We know that children who spend more time outdoors have better eyesight and are less likely to suffer from childhood obesity, ADHD, depression or anxiety. We know that all it takes for a child to develop a conservation ethic that will last a lifetime is spending time in the outdoors with caring, trusted adults.
Unfortunately, children are losing the opportunity to spend time in the outdoors. Where so many of us remember our parents telling us to “come home when the street lights come on,” children today are losing their ability to roam in unstructured ways. Parks are often empty and one Calgary DJ was heard to ask why cars should slow down near them if there are never any children there. Parents and teachers are increasingly busy and concerned about the liability that comes with taking children away from their homes and classrooms. We are becoming a society that structures indoor activities for our children at the expense of the time outdoors that they so desperately need.
That’s why CWF supports the international children and nature movement and the international play association. We know that children have a right to spend (and like spending) time outside, we know that adults like taking them there and we know that we can help make that possible. We want to ensure that every child learns to love the natural world through play. After love comes protection. From protection comes conservation.