I just rang a friend who is going around Australia on a 4 and half month adventure with his family. They are just about to cross the Nullarbor Plain which contains the longest straight stretch (146.6 km) of road between Balladonia and Caiguna in the world. He and his wife, along with his 9 and 7 year old sons and 4 year old daughter are having the time of their lives. Every new kilometre is a new adventure. When he told me he was taking time off work and taking his children out of school to go around Australia, I assured him this was a decision he would never regret.
I can speak from experience as my four boys, and my wife, experienced the joys of the endless plains on the Nullarbor for the first time ourselves in 1990. We explored the ruined telegraph station at Eucla and walked under the old jetty which has been frequented by the world’s best fashion models. It took a year for our circumnavigation of the continent to be complete and the whole year was a long adventure which will rank as one of the greatest years of our life.
The education that children get on the road is simply irreplaceable. Many so called experts argue that such children are educationally disadvantaged. This is pure nonsense. Our children did correspondence education for that 12 month period and two of my boys achieved dux status at the conclusion of their schooling and went on to complete high level university degrees with very high marks.
There is no better education than experiencing the adventure called ‘life first hand’. Not in a vicarious way behind a screen or ipad, but living in the moment, meeting new people and seeing those locations first hand in the presence of mum and dad. Michelle Majors would argue that we are suffering from ADD commonly known as Adventure Deficit Order.
Michelle Majors is not alone. In an article Anushka Asthana called “Kids Need the Adventure of Risky Play” said that A major study by Play England, part of the UK National Children’s Bureau, found that half of all children have been stopped from climbing trees, 21 per cent have been banned from playing conkers and 17 per cent have been told they cannot take part in games of tag or chase. Some parents are going to such extreme lengths to protect their children from danger that they have even said no to hide-and-seek.
‘Children are not being allowed many of the freedoms that were taken for granted when we were children,’ said Adrian Voce, director of Play England. ‘They are not enjoying the opportunities to play outside that most people would have thought of as normal when they were growing up.’
Voce argued that it was becoming a ‘social norm’ for younger children to be allowed out only when accompanied by an adult. ‘Logistically that is very difficult for parents to manage because of the time pressures on normal family life,’ he said. ‘If you don’t want your children to play out alone and you have not got the time to take them out then they will spend more time on the computer.’
Voce pointed out how irrational some of these decisions were. Last year, almost three times as many children were admitted to hospital after falling out of bed as those who had fallen from a tree.
The tendency to wrap children in cotton wool has transformed how they experience childhood. According to the research, 70 per cent of adults had their biggest childhood adventures in outdoor spaces among trees, rivers and woods, compared with only 29 per cent of children today. The majority of young people questioned said that their biggest adventures took place in playgrounds.
As Quaintmere spoke, two nine-year-old girls, Chloe Bailey and Kiara Gomes, ran by. ‘My favourite games are football and “it”,’ said Chloe, before going to build a camp with her friends. ‘My mum says that climbing trees is too dangerous,’ said Kiara. ‘But my dad lets me. If I fall over and it hurts, I just get myself up and smile.’
The Play England study quotes a number of play providers who highlight the benefits to children of taking risks. ‘Risk-taking increases the resilience of children,’ said one. ‘It helps them make judgments,’ said another. Some of those interviewed blamed the ‘cotton wool’ culture for the fact that today’s children were playing it too safe, while others pointed to a lack of equipment or too much concrete in place of grass. The research also lists examples of risky play that should be encouraged including fire-building, den-making, water sports, paintballing, boxing and climbing trees.”
Now you have it from the experts. The best cure for Adventure Deficit Disorder is to get outdoors with your children and start doing adventurous things. Start small and work up. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. You have to start somewhere and somewhere is always better than nowhere. You might even end up going around Australia. Whatever you do, you have to do something! Trust me, you will never regret it.
Yours for more adventure
PS. There are still some places available for the ‘Train the Trainer’ Summit 22-24 May 2015. We are extending the closing date to Friday 24 April 2015.
For those men who want to make a difference in the lives of other men by learning how to run the ‘Good to Great Fathering Course’, apply here.