Nature Based Play and Camps

Last Updated on September 5, 2020 by Ellen Christian

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When I was little and the weather was nice, my time was spent outdoors. I rode my bike, played ball with friends, made fairy houses in the woods, and climbed over rocks and through the woods. My play was all nature-based play, although that term wasn’t one my parents had heard of in the 1960s. It wasn’t unusual in those days for kids to head outside after breakfast and not be seen again until dinnertime. We were expected to be outside, and since that’s where all our friends were, that’s where we were.

Nature Based Play & Camps

Nature-Based Play and Camps

I expected that this same type of outdoor play would happen when my kids were old enough, but there are more challenges today than when I was little. Today, children don’t spend as much time outside. Parents are often both working, so when kids come home from school to an empty house they are usually expected to stay inside. It may not be safe for a child to roam through their neighborhood unsupervised like it was when I was younger. Technology has become a large part of our lives today, and our children’s lives are no exception. Kids have more screen time than ever before, whether that’s television, video games, or online learning activities.

In many ways, this increased reliance on technology has had a negative impact on our children’s lives. Kids rarely play outside due to parental fears, liability issues, hectic schedules, and the lure of the screen. When my son was little, I was juggling a full-time job and homemaking, and my husband, a truck driver, was rarely home. We eventually learned that both kids had ADHD, and I’m the first to admit that sometimes I turned to technology more than I should have.

Here are just a few facts that I’ve learned about how our children’s lives are impacted by technology and a lack of meaningful movement:

  • The U.S. has become the largest consumer of ADHD medications globally.
  • Recess times have shortened in school.
  • Only 1 in 12 children have normal strength and balance.

We need to find ways to get our children outside, and to get them moving even with the challenges of a changing world. TimberNook is a nature-based children’s camp that is attempting to address this problem. Founder Angela Hanscom is a mother of two and a pediatric occupational therapist who used her background to design a program that empowers children by stepping back and letting them take risks.

TimberNook’s outdoor programs integrate sensory experiences, imagination, and nature for all kids. Children play together and independently—using stories, games, and new experiences to have fun, learn, develop, and explore. The TimberNook curriculum weaves together the therapeutic benefits of nature with activities that inspire children to think creatively, to accept challenges, and even learn from failure.

TimberNook programs are spreading around the country and globe, and to date TimberNook-certified Providers have opened three camps in New England. In 2015, camps will be open and available to children in Oakland, Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Cleveland, and in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

TimberNook Providers have opened seven locations—but the demand for nature-based, sensory camps for children is growing as more parents see the need to get kids moving again. If you are passionate about the well being of children, I encourage you to join the TimberNook organization as a Provider. Joining TimberNook is not only a way to make a positive impact on children’s lives; it’s also a great way to start your own business.

It is my hope that many more TimberNook camps open to help bring back nature-based play and get our children outside. We need to do this so that our children have the same options we did when we were little. I wish that I had known about these camps when my kids were younger. If you feel the same way, you can become a Provider this fall.

Nature Based Play and Camps

12 thoughts on “Nature Based Play and Camps”

  1. The 1 in 12 kids statistic is so sad! I can't believe so many kids are that out of shape at such a young age. That is only going to get worse as they get older. My kids would love a nature based camp. They are so much happier spending time playing outside than they are when they sit around playing video games. We try to find a balance for tech and healthy outdoor activities at our house. 
  2. I think nature based camps are a fantastic idea, especially for this day and age of electronic everything. I'm not saying electronics aren't great. I'm just saying they're not EVERYTHING. 
  3. I remember when I was young, we wanted to be outside. I think barring bad weather that's where I spent most of my time from childhood to teen when I started working.
  4. We've had to kick our kids outside on more than one occasion this summer. They need the push - it'll be winter before you know it!
  5. My daughter seems to be glued to all inside activities, and I have to get her out of these bad habits. I would love her to get out and enjoy nature like this more.

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