Guest Post: How to Get Kids Outside & Exploring Again

Hi Readers — Here’s a note and a plug from a Free-Ranger across the pond  who has come up with a new way to lure kids outside. His name is Daniel Raven-Ellison, he lives in London and he’s a “geography activist.” As such he’s a founding member of The Geography Collective — a partnership of geography teachers, academics, artists and explorers.

Their goal? To get kids adventuring again and learning their way around, so they become curious, clever and bold. To find out more about Mission Explore, click here, and to find out more about the Geography Collective itself (which still has me a bit befuddled), click here. To order their book of “missions,” which really sound fun — things like “Let Your Dog Take You for a Walk,” and “Draw a Local Fantasy Map” — click here if you’re in America, and here if you’re in England.

Then stop clicking and go explore already! — L.

Are you ready to Mission: Explore? By Daniel Raven-Ellison, The Geography Collective

I am father of a 6-year-old boy who is somewhere outside. He is probably going on another adventure down the overgrown public alleyway, searching for our cat Mushroom. I’m not that worried about him because I (mostly) trust him. I also have good reason to think our wider community will not harm him, though I do fear some locals being afraid to help or even speak to him. His ability to play outdoors is key to his wellbeing and development (and that of his community), but a culture of risk aversion is putting him in harm’s way not only now, but in the future.

Exploration is one of the best forms of play. It is essentially a process of asking questions and searching for their answers. The “journey” may be real or imagined,  near or far, but it always involves thinking. It is a creative process which in all its forms  — physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, sensual — involves taking risks and using imagination. By limiting children with unreasonable boundaries they end up having fewer experiences from which they can imagine possible solutions. If we are to have creative children, they must have the right to explore.

My son’s ability  to find our cat would clearly be reduced if he’d never thought through where Mushroom goes — when and why? In the future it may well be these same skills will help him to deal with issues in his family, community and places of work.

Just in the same way that the media frequently distort dangers (even though it is safer in the long term to play outdoors for our mental and physical health!), it does the same for exploration. The media are fascinated with the new, distant, rare, exotic, dangerous and inappropriate. The reality is that everyday life is mostly safe and that everyday explorations can be enjoyed in every neighbourhood.

Two years ago a group of us formed The Geography Collective to engage young people with geography. We have developed guerrilla geography which gets children “doing” geography at unexpected times and in unexpected places. This is geography, but not as you know it. It’s not just about listing place names, but questioning the world in new ways. We’re interested in the geography of lost cats, marginalized people, hidden issues and challenging injustice. Our geography is as critical as it is radical.

To challenge the cotton wool culture that is damaging our communities and to show how powerful geographical thinking is, we have written Mission:Explore. Made up of 102 illustrated missions that can be undertaken anywhere in the world (not just England), the book encourages children to engage with their community in new ways.

The book is aimed at people aged 10 to 10,000 though my 6-year-old loves it. It’s for individuals, families, clubs and teachers to attempt missions that get everyone thinking about the world in new ways.

All of our book royalties are being invested in free copies of the book for deprived children. Currently if anyone buys two copies of the book from our website we are giving a third copy to a kid who can’t afford their own.

I really hope that you love Mission:Explore and see the value in what we are doing with it. If you have any questions or requests please get in contact through our website: — Daniel

20 Responses

  1. Awesome for me to read this post right now, as our 2 year old has spent the morning exploring our 120-acre ranch property. Of course he doesn’t have free reign of the whole place alone, but he is given permission to be “free-range” in the semi-fenced 2 acre yard. I check on him every now and then and he knows to tell me if he wants to venture far from where he originally said he’d be. I’m happy and amazed at his independence AND maturity at this young age because we’re raising him “free-range.” 🙂

  2. Mission Explore is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s so witty. Although it’s aimed at 10-16yr olds, it would be a lot of fun for much younger children to do with their children.

    Here’s my Amazon UK review (yes I’m from across the pond too)

  3. The only time many kids explore is with Internet Explorer. And as many experts working on websites know, it may be the most popular but Internet Explorer has been the least likely browser to display a site properly according to web standards.

  4. I wish this was a principle more people understood. Yes, bad things happen, but not as frequently as the news media would have us believe. Children need to know that they are capable human beings–that is the only way that they grow into capable adults.

  5. From a training stand point letting the dog walk you is actually very bad… but other than that I think I’d be very interested in getting the book. Amazon does not seem to mention the two and third goes to child in need deal though?

  6. I bought my kids a hand held GPS. We go geocaching. Great for around town AND vacations.

  7. I meant to finish my analogy on exploring with: Often what is popular such as helicoptering is not necessarily the best way to get where you are going.
    I was fortunate as a child to have both nearby woods to explore and access to things to take apart to explore how they worked.

  8. Looks absolutely brilliant.

  9. Ha! Maybe this is why I was drawn to free-ranging… I was raised by a geography teacher!! I am so getting this book.

  10. I love it! My two oldest children have to be forced to go play outside! They would rather play video games. When I was a kid I loved to play outside. The book looks great!

  11. How timely. My 8yr dd went “exploring” just yesterday. For her it is more the process of getting ready – the snacks need to be prepared, the sleeping bag rolled, the water available, hiking boots, bug spray, a map that she drew, etc. 3 hrs later she was off exploring our woods. And did I worry? No. Well, maybe a teeny tiny bit, but I never said anything to her to dim her mission. Only “Love you and have fun!” She was only gone about 45 min. Of course my dh came home it that time and asked the age old question of “Where are the kids?” I’m proud to say that many times the answer is “I’m not sure, but they are around here somewhere.” The amount of thought, imagination, planning, etc that went into her little 45 minutes was extraordinary. I can’t believe that other parents can’t see the value in that.

  12. I love this!!! Excellent – my 7 and 5 yr olds are doing the same! Thanks for the link!

  13. […] on Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids Blog, with Daniel from the Geography Collective’s guest blog post… For those who missed it, here’s a taster… I am father of a 6-year-old boy who […]

  14. Awesome. Purely awesome.

    P.S. I just sent my kids to the park so I could have some peace and quiet. Not only am I not watching them, but I am not getting them there. Instead, I am having tea. This free range stuff isn’t just for the kids! 🙂

  15. My 8 year old son is very used to having the freedom to roam the neighborhood. I’ve been a little resistant to letting him roam recently because we just moved. But what better time to roam around than when you’ve moved to a new place and you’re trying to get the lay of the land?

    @Sarah I send my kids to the park when I need quiet too. They try to fight me on it sometimes but I think its absolutely necessary to kick them out of the house from time to time.

  16. I think this concept used to be known as The Boys Scouts Of America….an organization now overrun with den mothers and gutted by accusations of perverted Scout Masters.

    My 50’s era husband was not allowed to join the Boy Scouts back in the day because his father heard it was ‘communist”.

    During WWII my father’s plane crash landed in Alaska. He attributed surviving several days in the wilderness from his Boy Scout teachings and avidly reading Call Of The Wild.

  17. Oh, this sounds fabulous!!

  18. […] Get Kids Outside Exploring Again, a guest post on Free-Range Kids Categories Uncategorized […]

  19. […] Guest Post: How to Get Kids Outside & Exploring Again […]

  20. I truly appreciated this specific web site. That is continually wonderful after you obtain an issue that is not just educational nevertheless entertaining. Outstanding

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