Childhood Re-Booted

November 9, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ leaders & followers

boots pic

by Lisa Pinhorn

That there has had to be a grassroots crusade to bring nature-based play back into the lives of children is hard to believe, but that is what is happening and it’s a good thing.  Nature is a true educational resource, and we have lots of it – right at our fingertips.  And I think we can agree there is not a more beautiful place in the world for children to experience nature than right here in Newfoundland.

children play outdoors

Before I get into the reasons why all our kids need nature-based play, let’s have a closer a look at our latest generation of children.   I see how today’s kids are in some form of structured group childcare from a very early age, constantly supervised, very scheduled, eat mountains of processed foods, have many early academic demands, don’t get enough exercise, are often sleep deprived, spend epic hours inside and in front of screens; and this is a big one – are often emotionally dysregulated.  (Dysregulated is a fairly new term, but we will be hearing it a lot.  It refers to how we manage our emotions, and basically means we are prone to big emotional floods of emotions that can lead to lots of challenging behaviours.)   Many leading experts are labeling this generation of children as the most anxious and stressed we have ever seen.  So how do we help to re-set, or re-boot this generation?

At Feeding Futures we work with families who are struggling to help their very anxious children.  We like to give parents a road map of what they can do to try and help their children, and a big part of that map is play, time in nature, increasing family downtime, increasing exercise, and creating opportunities to make true relationship connections.  The glorious thing about nature-based play is that it can help us tick off so many boxes of mental health management – for children and adults.   My very wise sister, and business partner says, ‘Pharmaceutical companies can’t provide us with a medication, with no side effects, as powerful as a family walk in the woods’.  And I know she is right, we see it in our Feeding Futures families.

So here are some reasons why we love nature-based play:

Kids skating in the winter

  • Being in nature helps us feel connected. Connected to the earth, air, water, sky, animals, food, and people found in the natural world.  If we want the next generation of humans to care for the future of our planet, children need to be up to their boots in nature – experiencing it often.
  • Exposure to Vitamin D. There is lots of research about the connection between Vitamin D and mental health, and all of us living on this beautiful island are deficient in the sunshine vitamin. So get out there and let the sun shine on your face.
  • Nature-based play helps organize our senses. If your child has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, they need nature-based sensory play, and lots of it.
  • Nature-based play helps kids take physical and emotional risks and learn independence.
  • Stress and anxiety levels decrease as we increase our outdoor physical activity – this is science we can no longer ignore. This is true in kids diagnosed with, and without ADHD.

But I know what some of you are thinking.  That’s great for all you hippies – so now we need to forget about academics and just let kids run wild in the woods all day? When will they learn all the academics they need? I get that thinking, so here are some academic benefits of nature-based play:

  • Kids who spend time in nature experience increases in critical thinking, cooperation, and creativity.
  • Nature-based play actually adds richness to academics; children can see academic theories in action – in the realFamily time in nature world.
  • Year round outdoor play has been shown to increase academic performance, help kids filter out distractions, and increase executive functioning. In other words – these kids are quiet, focused, and alert.

There is science behind the need for nature in our lives.  If you want to see some of our local nature warriors in action check out our newest nature based schools, Wild Island ( and Cloudberry Forest School .

So get out there with your kids – go camping, jump in puddles, go biking, make art with flowers, build snow forts, and let the rain help you re-boot your connections with nature.


boots photo courtesy of Cloudberry Forest School.

Lisa PinholdLisa Pinhorn is partner in Feeding Futures – Holistic Nutrition and Food Therapies as well as an Adult Educator, Pivitol Response Therapist & Mom of two daughters.    She says, “For over 25 years my academic and professional life as been focused on the needs of children and families.  I have seen many childcare trends come and go, but not many movements have made me as happy as the rebirth of nature-based play.”  

For more,, or facebook