Rewilding childhood – how do we do it?

Over the last three years The Wild Network has been evolving our mission. We began with the mission to reconnect children with nature and we brought together multiple stakeholders from multiple sectors including play, health, education and nature to bring that to life.

In all of our work there has always been a subtle interplay between the benefits that Wild Time brings to children and the benefits to nature that happen as a direct impact from greater time spent outdoors in a natural environment. Our outcomes have always been geared towards supporting both.

But in order to make that happen we needed a bigger vision – one that could contain this complexity more easily. 

That is why our mission is to rewild childhood.

To rewild childhood is a huge idea, but an idea whose time has come. To achieve it will mean reconsidering all of the systems, rules and processes that we place around children. 

The ideas behind rewilding are most commonly applied to a landscape scale – restoring it to natural principles. But we think that it can easily and powerfully be applied to people and our relationship to the communities we build. 

Here are some of the things we need to address:

  • How we educate our children.
  • How we design the places where we live.
  • The value we place on our time and our busyness.
  • The rules we place around technology and how we can adapt to rapid change.
  • Our addiction to cars.
  • Our attitudes to risk and the amount we’re prepared to expose our children to.
  • How we value our connection to the natural world where we live.
  • How we build the communities that we live and work in.
  • How we connect to nature, its rhythms, cycles and processes.

These are big meaty issues that sit right at the heart of the question about the sort of society we want to live in and leave as a legacy to our children.

They are the sort of questions that are going to require open collaboration between multiple partners and an open-hearted approach to unlearning many of the practices ingrained in our lives.  It is not going to be a quick fix – we’re here for the long-haul – but the time to start is now because let us not forget why this matters.

The evidence is clear that a rewilded childhood directly or indirectly leads to many benefits to children – it can help them thrive in the 21st century.

  • They’re more flexible in facing and solving unpredictable challenges.
  • They’re more emotionally robust and calm.
  • They can judge risk better.
  • They’re happier and physically healthier.
  • They are able to communicate and problem solve more effectively.
  • They are more likely to want to care for and fight to protect the environment as they grow.

So children are still front and centre of everything we do, but our focus switches subtly to be about the decisions we all take as a society, which dictate the world that our children grow into and the future that they inherit.

One idea that we find deeply inspiring is The Children’s Fire, so beautifully described by Mac Macartney founder of Embercombe. The Children’s Fire perfectly sums up our mission and adds fuel to our own fire.

childrens fire, inspiration, rewilding childhood, tim 'mac' macartney