It’s summer. School’s out, the sun’s shining, and kids everywhere are itching to get outside and play. After all, they spend all year cooped up inside, waiting anxiously for those few months of the year when their only responsibility is to be home before sundown.
Or at least we think. For many adults, looking back on their childhood brings fond memories of riding bikes, shooting hoops, and spending every possible minute outside (until the streetlights came on). But for today’s kids, summer days are different.
On average, kids now spend as little as four to seven minutes outside in unstructured play each day. It’s an unfortunate consequence of a changed culture – and in many cases, the over-protection, over-screening, or over-scheduling of today’s kids.
This isn’t meant to induce a guilt trip. Rather, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and a host of partners across this state see an opportunity. Research shows that kids who spend more time outdoors are more creative, less stressed, and less aggressive. They also have stronger immune systems and improved cognitive abilities. The science is clear: kids grow better outside.
We understand that for many, making time to get outside is easier said than done. GOCO is here to make it less of a challenge. In the summer of 2017, we launched Generation Wild, a campaign to get Colorado children and families outside more often. It all started with our 100 Things to Do Before You’re 12 list, which offers inspiration for family-friendly outdoor activities, ranging from easy to do, close-to-home tasks like making a mud pie and flying a kite to more adventure-oriented suggestions, like visiting a glacier or climbing a 14-er.
An integrated, statewide media campaign pushed Generation Wild’s uplifting messages into homes by way of TV advertising, digital advertising, and social media, and was out-of-home too, on billboards and at bus stops in Denver and Colorado Springs. We also got a little outside-the-box and built a 22-foot fort that’s traveling the state and making stops everywhere from downtown Denver and the Denver Zoo to Pueblo and Grand Junction. Its colorful ribbons and tent-like structure make it a kid magnet.
As we wrapped up phase one of the movement last fall, we ran the numbers and attempted to quantify our success. What we found completely exceeded our expectations. Almost 65% of Colorado moms had heard of Generation Wild, and best of all, 55% said that the campaign encouraged them to get their kids outside more often. We built on the momentum to launch phase two on June 4th.
This year, we want to further challenge misconceptions about children in the outdoors. We don’t want to judge or shame moms, but rather encourage them to set kids free once in a while. We believe grit and resilience are valuable qualities, and that the best way to build them is to face challenges outside. Bumps, bruises, and scrapes are all parts of being a kid, and they teach important lessons about bouncing back and overcoming setbacks.
You’ll start seeing some new promotions that reinforce this message. We have a new TV spot that is airing across the state and billboards around Denver and Colorado Springs. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for new tips and resources, giveaways, backyard hacks, fort locations, and discussion about outdoor-related topics.
We’re happy to announce that June 21st, which was the first day of summer, was proclaimed “Generation Wild Day” by Governor Hickenlooper, and a Generation Wild flag flew near the front of the Capitol building. You may have seen more about this online, but in case you missed it, read the full proclamation.
You can visit the fort at the Denver Zoo until late July. After that, it heads to the Flatirons Mall in Broomfield for back-to-school season and then on to the State Fair in Pueblo. The Generation Wild team will make stops at several events throughout the summer and fall, so be sure to follow us on social (Facebook and Instagram) for event reminders.
We’re also rolling out our Generation Wild communities – 15 amazing spots around our state leveraging GOCO Inspire Initiative grants to create new places and programs for outdoor play and learning. Collaborative coalitions made up of an array of organizations are taking an innovative, locally-driven approach to breaking down barriers to getting outside, with youth voices at the center of everything that’s happening. If you want to learn more about these communities and their programs, contact Erika Meyer.
Times change, and kids may have different experiences than we had growing up, but it’s possible to strike a balance between screen time and outdoors time. To remember that getting outside is worth it. To give kids today the chance to feel free in nature.