Parents

No TVs or tablets? No problem. Mom's photos depict 'childhood in the raw'

One mother's beautiful photos of her children splashing in the mud and running through sprinklers are taking us back to an era when playtime wasn't dominated by TVs and iPads.

Niki Boon's ongoing photo series, called "Childhood in the Raw," features her four children, ages 7 to 13.

Niki Boon
Niki Boon's children spend much of the day playing outdoors.

"I guess I started like all devoted mothers do with photos of our babies... to document who they become as they grow," Boon, who lives with her family on a 10-acre farm in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, told TODAY in an email.

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"I wanted to also explore what childhood is, and what it is to grow up, and for this reason I choose to also show images which may depict the loneliness and solitude of childhood, the pain and hurt that is also experienced," she said. "I didn't want to shy away from the less joyful aspects of the journey. I also love the pictures that really depict the freedom that childhood allows."

Niki Boon
The family lives on a 10-acre farm in New Zealand.

Her photos are striking not only for their beauty, but because there's notably something missing: technology. Boon is raising her children in a remote, rural area, where they climb trees, play with animals, and run free and barefoot. What they don't do: play video games, watch TV or waste time tapping away on a tablet.

"Our children have never had TV or iPads in their lives, at least not at home here," Boon said.

Niki Boon
The children are responsible for helping take care of the animals on the farm.

Her children, Kurt, 13, Rebecca, 12, Anton, 9, and Arwen, 7, are home-schooled and don't mind the lack of gadgets, their mom said.

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"They don't think they are missing out on anything," Boon said. "They really have access to a lot of entertainment on our property and surrounding environment."

Niki Boon
No TVs and tablets? No problem. Niki Boon says her kids aren't missing out on anything.

"Children are naturally curious and we have found that they will seek answers and learn from everywhere they can," she added. "For our children, this has been from books and the world around them, the land, nature, other people, travel."

And as for that camera, the kids are used to it: “They just get on with their play, knowing it’s there,” Boon said. “It’s just what I do.”

Niki Boon
The Boon family lives an unplugged lifestyle.

“They will occasionally ask me to photograph something for them, like an insect they found or a sandcastle they made, so that they will have the picture to remember it,” she added.

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Boon and her husband were inspired by the Steiner, or Waldorf, approach to education, which focuses on physical activity and hands-on-learning as opposed to computers. That's not to say the Boon children are entirely sheltered from technology.

Niki Boon
'I love the pictures that really depict the freedom that childhood allows,' Boon said.

"We do have a computer in the house, and they are aware of what technology is," Boon said. "The two older children are allowed to have some extremely limited access to (the computer)."

Of course, Boon knows not every family can live such an off-the-grid lifestyle — and she doesn't judge parents who raise their children in different ways.

"I believe that ultimately every parent does the best they can by their children with what they have available, and every family lives in very different surroundings and circumstances," she said. "This way of living works for us at this time, but I know that every family is different."

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