Dads go wild!

Kids don’t play outside as much as they used to.

This is an oft repeated assertion that the Avant-Gardeners hear when running our projects and studies over the last few years seem to back this up. There is also a large body of work available which looks at the positive impact that a connection with nature can have on one’s physical and mental health; so whats stopping you? Let’s get outside to play!


As part of our work at Avant-Gardening we often look at how people can interact with nature through their shared green spaces and question what the barriers are to engaging with nature. One of the main problems in London appears to be the quality of the green spaces. Whilst there are undoubtedly some great parks and pockets of wildness that make you forget you are in the city there are also the bland, low maintenance monocultural expanses of grass that are mainly favoured by lazy dog walkers unwilling to clean up after their dogs. And then there are the ‘contemporary’ gardens which are predominantly paved, with a tree in a concrete box as its main feature. At best these spaces are uninspiring and at worst they generate the message, “move along, this is not a social space,’

In my opinion the city’s green spaces should be viewed as more than an empty space; a part of the street furniture, a bland entrance to a new housing development. These spaces have the potential to become the heart of the community, a place to enjoy, to grow food and plants, and for kids to play in. But the community needs to be more involved with these spaces, to take ownership, explore and enjoy them, and help shape the definition of what a communal green space can be.

On a recent visit to Devon I met with one of the Dangerous Dads, a group of dads and male carers who explore nature with their kids. The idea is both simple and highly effective, switch off those computers for a while and enjoy some outdoor fun. This is obviously great for the children but also has a positive influence on the dads, who can use the time to bond with their children and enjoy the benefits of outdoor play too. Den building, star gazing, campfire cooking and storytelling are all part of a D Dads day out for dads and kids to experience. The Dangerous Dads in Totnes are part of a rapidly growing network of dads around the world who want to enjoy the outdoors with their children and Avant-Gardening has joined the network to explore the way we can enjoy our urban nature.

Imagine the boring patches of grass I mentioned earlier bursting into colour and life, being used by people for both practical and fun activities. It’s time to think afresh about these spaces and find ways of activating them that benefits both the community and the urban biodiversity that is becoming increasingly important to protect if we want to nurture a healthy ecosystem in the city. Lets start enjoying these spaces and using them for more than just the dog walk routine. Dads, its time to get the kids and go wild! So, Dads of Greenwich do you think you are up to the challenge? Do you think you can help affect the change that so many people want?

For more information on Dangerous Dads visit their website. If you want to sign up for more information and receive updates on this project email me, Paul Green.

About Paul Green

Paul Green curates and project manages Avant-Gardening. He was previously the Arts Development Officer at Lambeth Council before taking up the position of Outreach Co-ordinator at Hayward Gallery and has worked for Film London, Camden Arts Centre, Greenwich Film Festival and Camden Council amongst others

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