Do these kids look bored? Do you think they’d rather be at Toys”R”Us right now? Nah, I don’t think so either.
We think playing outside is pretty great. Part of our mission is to connect people (especially kids) to places and activities they can enjoy regardless of who they are, where they live, or what equipment they have access to.
And that’s why we were so frustrated when we saw this new holiday commercial from Toys”R”Us – check it out:
As Outside Magazine so eloquently puts it, the take away message from the ad is: “Hey kids, nature is boring and dumb. Plastic toys, on the other hand, rule!”
Toys”R”Us misses the mark – there is a wealth of research confirming that outdoor play and environmental education have positive benefits across the board. Outdoor play supports kids health, development, and cognitive function. It develops creativity, a sense of place, and fosters imagination. We agree with this response from the National Parks Conservation Association:
Children who climb trees, make mud pies, explore streams, stare at clouds, collect leaves, make swords of sticks, wish on dandelions, build forts and fairy houses—these children are exercising their bodies as they exercise their imaginations, with no batteries required, and are immeasurably the richer for it.
The good news? There are lots of organizations and people working towards connecting people and kids to the outdoors. The Children & Nature Network, co-founded by Richard Louv, author of one of our favorite books, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”, highlighted some recent accomplishments in response to the Toys”R”Us ad his blog post. Here are some headlines he identified from last week – all supporting the widespread effort to get kids outside:
1. The American Public Health Association gives a boost to those working to create nature-rich cities.
2. The American Academy of Pediatricians issues tougher guidelines for kids’ media use.
3. Department of Interior launches initiative to expand opportunities for youth on public land.
I really encourage you to read the whole post – these are some amazing examples of the momentum behind this movement.
Finally, here is our favorite response to this frustrating marketing campaign – a video from Texas Parks & Wildlife: