As I’m sure everyone knows, the outdoor community is outraged with a Toys ‘R’ Us commercial that has recently come out. Basically, it shows a gaggle of children getting onto an outdoor education bus, and then being pleasantly surprised that they will not be learning about the outdoors, but instead going to Toys ‘R’ Us. See the commercial below.
Needless to say, my fellow outdoor enthusiasts are totally un-stoked about this, because of the obvious association that says the outdoors and outdoor education are boring, and materialism and toys are good/better.
I’m torn on being upset. How about the fact that my fellow outdoor amigos and I spend inordinate amounts of money on material items called ‘outdoor gear’ (but really toys one uses outdoors). And dig a little deeper here towards the ‘behind the scenes’ and one learns that these children are from Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters. So these kids could use a toy, and the outdoor community could perhaps learn to chill a bit.
Regardless of their deserving manner, it appears this is not really touched upon in the advertisement. What is touched upon is that the outdoors are boring, and toys are fun/better. For a 6-11 year old, I sadly think this might be true. But this is likely due to the fact that they don’t really have fun associations with the outdoors. Children grow up in suburbs or cities with no positive association to the woods and the outdoors. And the outdoor education cliche of being boring is frankly speaking, often times true. What 6-11 year old wants to learn about trees and leaves? Lets immediately fix this by making the outdoors fun for the same reason adults love the outdoors, it’s an adventure. Children love adventures, and they love fun, which is why they love toys. The second we make the outdoors fun, is the second that children will grow up cherishing them, and thus have the desire to protect and defend them later on. I say we need more programs that bring children to the woods to play, that turn the outdoors into a playground, that make it an adventure. Let’s present the outdoors to children in a manner that a child would understand, not in the manner that a botanist would understand.
I loved the outdoors at a young age. This is because I was fortunate enough to be a part of groups that put me in adventurous and fun outdoor programs, as well as having parents that supported my desires to explore local trails and country parks. Once the activity is fun, then the desire to learn and be an advocate will follow.
Also, if I had a nickle for every time I ran through Toys ‘R’ Us like a maniac as a child, I would be able to afford that new GoPro.