Run Wild, My Child
When you learn that Finland has over half a million summer cottages, tiny little second homes seemingly in the middle of nowhere, you understand how important the natural world is to Finns. They grow up playing in the forest. The outside world is their playground, come wind, rain, shine or snow. And it’s not just Finland: you’ll find this pattern repeated across all the Nordic countries. In short, adventuring outside is in our DNA.
1. Adventuring Starts Young
Playing out and about starts young. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends every child and young person to move actively for at least one hour every day. The official Finnish recommendation, however, is three times that length, with children at kindergartens required to move for at least three hours a day. This means that not only do kids get used to playing outdoors, they get used to dressing properly for the outdoors, even in the chilliest or wettest conditions.
2. School Days Are Play Days
In the Nordics, children start school later, at around seven. This gives them more years to develop a habit of outdoor playing, which is encouraged in a wide variety of ways. Not only do kids have short school days, leaving them more time to be outside, but they also tend to walk to school rather than being dropped off by their parents. What’s more, they have a huge range of active hobbies, many of which are organised by the school to pass the long afternoons. In fact, sport is so enthusiastically promoted that Finnish kids even have a spring holiday colloquially known as ski break. Typically, this week sees families head for the forest or mountains and spend time together getting to grips with the slopes or forest ski tracks.
3. More Time to Discover the World
In Sweden, only 1% of employees work more than 50 hours a week, one of the lowest rates in the OECD, where 13% is the average. Swedes are given at least 25 days of holiday, and parents get 480 days of paid parental leave to split between them. Even Finnish children’s summer holidays last well over two months. According to a new study by Totally Money, Finland has the fourth-best work-life balance in Europe, with an average of 8 hours devoted to leisure per day. This healthy attitude to work-life balance is typical across the Nordics, and when parents have more time to be with their children, children get more family outings. In short, everyone wins.
Finns grow up playing in the forest. The outside world is their playground, come wind, rain, shine or snow.
4. Outdoor Play Is Equally Fun For Everyone
In the 2017 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, four of the top five countries were from the Nordics, with Iceland, Norway and Finland taking the top three places. This permeates every level of Nordic society, but it also affects how kids play. Go to any playground and not only will you see kids wearing the same sort of all-purpose clothing, but you’ll see girls playing just as rough and tumble as boys. Regardless of gender, the Nordic lifestyle encourages everyone to explore and express themselves.
5. At Ease With Nature
With the exception of Denmark, the Nordic countries are some of the least densely populated on earth. The wilderness is often just a short walk or drive away. Finland and Sweden, for example, are the top two most forested countries in Europe. Consequently, exploring the great outdoors, whether it’s picking berries and mushrooms in the summer or skiing and skating in the winter is embedded in Nordic culture, from the moment you can walk. It’s a tradition, which not only encourages us to be at one with nature from a very early age, but also gives us the know-how to dress right for our adventures.