Are mums really doing it all wrong?

A is for “allow” your kids to play outside. Whatever the weather!

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post asks if childhood really does need saving. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

It’s an old joke – the pensioner looks back to his young days with nostalgic, rose-tinted spectacles. This means he may claim, say, London’s Caledonian Road used to be a happy place where everyone knew each other and kept their doors open all weathers at the same time as you tell the TV interviewer that everyone wore two pairs of trousers so they could stuff stolen goods down them without the police noticing. The reality is obvious to anyone – it was a shark’s den, with permanently drunk slaughters at one end, and the King’s Cross prostitutes at the other.

We mix up our childhood memories all the time. Misery memoirs sell like hot cakes, but we insist being young was bliss. And then we drive our kids home from school so they’re on time for the maths tutor, or whoever is giving them special coaching today.

I’m writing this on international mud day (yes, it exists, friday 29 june 2012) – hopefully not the only date in the year where children are allowed to get a bit muddy. I read about this celebration on a wonderful website called which has the most creative ideas (possibly on the planet), plus a whole load of strategy and enthusiastic followers trying to give the green light back to outdoor, messy play.

Ironically the muddy celebration is very close to the date that the Save Childhood Movement was launched (27 june 2012). This group claims that British children are the unhappiest on the planet. Surely an exaggeration seeing as British children are generally not starving, have free health care and the potential for at the least an OK education, if not better than that? But if you want the rationale have a look at the Daily Telegraph story here.

What needs saving?
The main lessons from the Save Childhood Movement – who have some seriously big names supporting it – seem to be let your kids play outside.  Don’t give them screens. Let their brains develop the way they should – experimenting, failing, trying again and again, succeeding – as they scramble around out of doors.

I am certain that less tutoring, and less screens makes a happier child, who will hopefully become a well-adjusted adult. But the truth is that there’s no right way to drag up your kids. That said I don’t think you can go far wrong by teaching them to be kind, and to think, ideally while hanging around outside…

Over to you
What do you do to encourage your kids off facebook (or the equivalent)? Do you feel exams put children under pressure – is the GCSE cycle of constant assessment tougher for the brain than two year’s work and then one final exam? And are you honest about the good and bad bits of your own childhood?

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3 Comments on “Are mums really doing it all wrong?”

  1. nicola baird Says:

    From Facebook:
    Penny It’s always a toughie. My oldest is accusing us of making her a freak ridiculed at school because we have no telly and there never seems time to catch up on iPlayer and anyway our computer is so slow it crashes halfway through.
    But then I am sitting in the park with a rabble of like minded kids all playing imagination games based on Greek Myths and fantasy worlds and think thank god they don’t know how to create a Facebook account or have a Wii.

    Nicola Baird Who accuses her of being a freak – besides most of the kids use iplayer anyway so really what’s the difference between no telly and access to telly? I think us mums have to be good listeners, but get the kids thinking so they can see that they aren’t the freak. Also their friends being vocal (“you freak”) isn’t the same as an accusation! Must rush so can’t continue this interesting conversation.

    Penny Don’t worry I am all about listening and equipping. She’s pretty amazing at come backs anyway x

    Kelly Do what’s right for you and your kids… Surely that’s always the answer? I personally think no screen time at all is both unrealistic and unnecessary, but strictly limited screen time is a must. Music – both of the pop and the classical piano variety plays a big role in our house. And I wish my kids had more freedom to go out alone – but ironically, now that we are encouraging Orla to wander off with her friends, she is reluctant to do so. All in good time. But totally agree getting dirty and muddy and making concoctions outside is the best thing ever.

    Penny But I think the question was how do you know what is right for you and your kids? Is anyone so certain that they have made the right choices?
    That, to me, is always the question and something to reflect on and reexamine at times.

  2. I’m not too restrictive about TV/Facebook etc, but that’s just because I feel I don’t need to be, I think my children have a good balance and don’t spend too long in front of screens. If the weather is good (well at least not raining!), they will always choose to walk up to the park to meet some friends rather than sit in front of a screen. Or they’ll just go out into the garden to jump on the trampoline, or throw a ball around.

    • nicola baird Says:

      Hi Vanessa, gardens are a huge entertainment resource for us all – especially ones which really have things to do in them, eg, dens and trampolines (mini veg beds, trees) etc. But most town homes have such small gardens and of course loads of people live in flats too which makes it so much harder for everyone – parent or child – to steer away from screens as default entertainment. Nicola

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