Getting Kids Into Nature: Project Wild Thing

podcast iconAre your kids afraid of nature?

Want to discover why it’s important to swap electronic time for wild time?

To learn about the benefits of getting kids into nature, I interview David Bond for this episode of the Parenting Adventures podcast.

More About This Show

parenting adventures podcast michael stelznerThe Parenting Adventures podcast is a show from My Kids’ Adventures.

It’s for parents (and grandparents) who are looking for creative things to do with their kids.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, I interview David Bond, a documentary film director and the man behind Project Wild Thing.

Project Wild Thing is an amazing documentary that explores David’s new job as the marketing director of nature (a.k.a. the great outdoors).

Project Wild Thing is more than just a film. It’s a movement and message, as well as an app, to encourage families to spend more time outside.

David shares what inspired him to make this film.

You’ll discover the importance of incorporating nature into your kids’ lives, even if only for a few minutes a day.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

Have trouble getting kids into nature? In Parenting Adventures Podcast 5, David Bond shares Project Wild Thing, his documentary on selling nature to kids.

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[powerpress]You can also subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Project Wild Thing

What inspired David to take on this project

David explains the impetus for this film. He looked at the relationship his kids have with nature, reflected on his own experience growing up and asked his 80-year-old mother what she remembers from childhood.

His mother was really connected to the environment in her youth, whereas David feels he was halfway on the journey to being an indoor kid. His children, on the other hand, had a completely foreign relationship with the great outdoors.

Watch this Vimeo trailer of Project Wild Thing from Green Lions

David Bond started Project Wild Thing as a way to find out why his kids weren’t choosing to enjoy nature.

It struck David that of all of the ways his kids spend their time, they spend the least amount playing outside. According to all the child development experts, playing in nature helps kids develop best. So he wanted to find out why they weren’t choosing it.

Although access to green spaces is a key barrier between children and the outdoors, the film reveals that it’s not the only obstruction. Even where there are green spaces, children aren’t choosing to go there and their parents aren’t choosing to take them.

Listen to the show to find out the irrational fears kids have about the great outdoors.

What David achieved with Project Wild Thing

David noticed how effectively big brands, entertainment companies and game manufacturers market to kids to get them hooked on their products. There’s nothing wrong with these products in moderation, David believes. However, when you look at all of the products clamoring for your kids’ attention, something’s going to get squeezed out. And what gets squeezed out is outdoor time.

kids watching tv

Kids spend so much time connected, they miss out on playing in nature. Image source: iStockPhoto.

David decided that he needed to market nature just as vigorously. Once they hit on that idea, the concept for the film took shape. It became more than a movie—Project Wild Thing became a movement.

The film received a wonderful positive reaction after its cinematic release in the United Kingdom last year. It received support from a variety of organizations, including our National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, as well as the scouting movement, forest school, mental health charities and more. It was a campaign people could get behind.

As a result, the film became an international movement and the Wild Network was formed.

Listen to the show to find out ways the film can prompt discussions in schools and other community groups.

What stops parents from taking their kids into nature

David explains that on the Wild Network, they list the 11 major barriers to nature: the rise in traffic, road safety, stranger danger, our risk-averse culture, lack of opportunities, lack of environmental learning, bad town planning (towns are planned around cars, not children), consumerism, commercialism of play, the rise of screen time and time-crunched parents.

barriers to nature

The Wild Network identifies 11 major barriers to nature.

As the barriers grow, children go outside less and less.

You’ll hear David share one of the tactics he uses to make hikes more fun. He takes a pocketful of chocolates with them when they go on a hike. When the kids aren’t looking, he’ll throw a piece of chocolate over their heads and into an upcoming bush. As a result, his kids think chocolate magically appears on hikes.

David is a fan of technology, he says. There are many apps, including his Wild Time app, that suggest activities that parents and children can do outdoors. There are apps for tree and plant identification, bird watching, astronomy, geocaching, hiking and more.

Listen to the show to learn how children benefit when parents balance their use of technology.

How the Wild Time app works

Wild Time is the app from the Wild Network. You put in how much time you have, which can range from ten minutes to half an hour or half a day. It will then suggest games and activities you can do in that amount of time.

wildtime app image

The Wild Time app is available for Mac and Android.

Lots of the content is user-generated, so when you join the community, you’re encouraged to post your own ideas. David says if you don’t like the first activity, keep going—you’ll find one that works for you.

Listen to the show to learn how to play leaf snap.

The benefits of getting kids outdoors

The main reason kids should get out into nature is because it’s fun. Children across all cultures say they have more fun outdoors than anywhere else, according to a UNICEF report.

Plus, being outdoors is really good for you.

boy looking through binoculars

Looking at nature, as well as being outdoors, is good for you. Image source: iStockPhoto.

If you look at it from a scientific point of view, studies show that people have positive results just from looking at nature: people recover better from illness and students perform better during exams. Imagine the benefits of actually being outdoors.

There are tremendous physiological benefits, including reductions in stress hormones and blood pressure and a boost in the immune system, as well as spiritual and community-based benefits.

Listen to the show to learn how exposing your kids to the natural world can prepare them for the future.

Take the Wild Time pledge

David explains that Project Wild Thing recommends people swap screen time for wild time. For example, for 30 minutes a day, you pledge to switch off the electronics and get outside instead.

kids outside

Take time you would normally spend using electronics and go outside instead.

There’s something about the everyday habit of being in nature that has a huge effect, David explains. Evidence shows that the way kids consume their natural experiences is through events, like going on an amazing hiking trip. However, in the absence of daily small experiences, the big event can’t keep them happy and connected.

Do something in nature every day. That’s what Project Wild Thing and the Wild Network are all about.

Listen to the show to find out how to sign up to take the pledge.

Parenting Adventures Tip

How to make slime

My Kids’ Adventures’ Jennifer Ballard and Kristin Ammerman share a fun activity for kids of all ages: how to make slime.

To make slime, all you need is glue, food coloring (optional) and borax. Pour a bottle of glue into a bowl. Then fill the empty glue bottle with warm water and add to the glue. Mix in food coloring and a teaspoon of borax. Your slime will get thick and stretchy and ready to use.

5 slime recipes image

Kristin recommends you use paper goods and a popsicle stick for mixing to lessen the mess to clean up. She also keeps the different colors in their own plastic bags, which keeps the slime pliable for more play the next day.

Listen to the show to discover variations for slime.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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What do you think? What are your thoughts on getting your kids into nature? Please leave your comments below.

Images from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

I am a dad of three kids, the founder of My Kids' Adventures and the founder of Social Media Examiner. I also host the Parenting Adventures podcast. Other posts by »


  1. Libby says:

    Here’s the Project Wild Thing DVD on amazon.

  2. […] had a nature theme. All of her picture books, fiction or non-fiction, had an element of science or nature integrated into […]

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