Chantelle Kelly speaks to Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield, the masterminds behind Going Wild, to find out how they are inspiring children to get outside.
Can you introduce yourselves?
We are Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield, friends and authors of the Going Wild books. Soon after we met we realised we were both keen to inspire more families to spend time outdoors, and were frustrated by how many people seemed to find it difficult to enjoy time in the natural world with their children. Fiona had already done some writing and Jo had been taking pictures with the view of doing a book of her family’s outdoor adventures, so we decided to try and write a book together.
We believe in reconnecting children with the natural world through free play and exploration. Through bringing together Jo’s background in educational psychology and photographic skills, Fiona’s knowledge of environmental education and our experiences with our own children, we seek to raise awareness of the many benefits children gain by spending more time outdoors.
Together as Going Wild we run training workshops for teachers, wildlife trusts and outdoor events, give talks and work on different outdoor projects – all promoting outdoor play.
What is the aim of Going Wild?
Going Wild is on a mission to inspire children, young people and families to spend more time outside, discovering the wonders of the natural world. Wild outdoor spaces offer endless opportunities for free play, fun and exploration. Here children will learn how to judge risk, discover more about plants and animals, and our reliance on them.
Making space in our children’s lives for some “wild” time makes them happier and healthier, and encourages communication. When they are as familiar with the natural world as they are with technology, they will understand their connection with the fragile ecosystems on which all of our futures depend.
We hope Going Wild will inspire more people to leave the comfort of their living rooms and get outdoors to experience the natural world for real. We want to encourage children everywhere to open their eyes to the wonders of the nature which may be on their doorstep.
Through our writing, talks and training events to educators, parents and those working in the environment, we aim to give practical advice, ideas and inspiration for fun things to do outside. This will hopefully provide the motivation needed to get many more youngsters out having real life fun adventures, developing a love and respect for the natural world.
You’ve published several books that encourage children to explore outside- can you tell us about them?
We now have 8 books all published by Frances Lincoln and our ninth book is out in May called The Den Book. Our books incorporate seasonal activities, bushcraft for older kids, creative activities using natural materials, games, storytelling and theatre, helping wildlife, fun things to do in the rain, wind, ice and snow, activities to do in outdoor spaces in cities, gardens and playgrounds, and activities for beaches, seasides, streams and rivers. And sticks!
Who are your books aimed at?
Our books are aimed at families everywhere, but most of the activities are suitable largely for primary aged children. However Go Wild, Make it Wild and Run Wild have some activities which are more challenging, which teenagers may enjoy.
Why do you think it’s important for children to get outside?
It is important as it has huge benefits for physical and mental health. It inspires creativity and imagination, provides opportunities for exploration and enables learning about natural processes. Without that contact with natural places, young people grow up with no understanding and appreciation of wildness and wildlife. We both feel it is vital for the health, cognitive development and happiness of our children, and the health of our environment. If you have fun in the natural world, you will understand it and care about it in the future.
What’s your favourite activity with the family?
Fiona: Hard to say! I love just being in the outdoors, walking and enjoying natural history – but if I am with children, it would have to be something that all ages can enjoy together, as I believe the outdoors is a great place to share family time with adults and children together. Perhaps sharing a meal round an outdoor fire or making a dam at the beach!
Jo: To that I’d only add – sleeping out in a den you’ve made after an evening of stories round the campfire!