Home » All posts » A ‘nature passport’ gets you an amazing childhood? Really?

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Nature Australia, an organisation dedicated to helping parents in Western Australia get their children more involved in outdoor activities, has recently revealed its latest idea – a ‘Nature Play Passport to an Amazing Childhood’, in conjunction with the Department of Sport and Recreation. Your child registers, get their passport and a list of missions and activity suggestions (learn to swim, climb a tree, camp out…). The blurb says that these are things that ‘every kid should do before they’re 12.’

Should?

The concept of any kind of ‘passport’ makes me feel uneasy in the first place. I know it’s just a device, but it is nonetheless sullied for me by connotations of rights, access, and some kind of concept of citizenship in the land of ‘amazing’ childhoods.

My reaction was that this approach is not the answer to the very real issue of children spending too much time indoors. Sure enough, I then read that initial trials of the ‘passport’ have also shown that, while the parents might show some  enthusiasm, the children are resisting. Getting them to connect, fundamentally, with the outdoors isn’t going to happen with shortcuts, no matter how prettily decorated by stickers, stamps and free t-shirts.

I’m concerned that initiatives like this risk papering over issues that are much greater and more complex. Getting families outdoors won’t happen by implying that their children will otherwise be refused entry to some kind of ‘Land of Amazing Childhoods’.

I’m not sure what the answer is. But the initial rewards, surely, must lie in the doing.

Encourage your child climb trees, by all means. But then leave him alone to discover the bugs, feel the bark, enjoy the isolation, shiver in a breeze, nibble an apple, hide from his brother, scrape his knee, refuse to come down when told…

And then hold a bin out underneath the boughs and ask him whether he can sling his ‘Passport’ straight in it.

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