“NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back” review

Over my years as a teacher, so many of my professional discussions have been peppered with, “That would be amazing, BUT…..”

“It would be amazing if we could implement longer play times, BUT….”

“It would be amazing if we could take our children outside for regular visits to our local community throughout the year, BUT….”

“It would be amazing if we could scrap timetables and integrate all subjects, BUT….”

“It would be amazing if we could encourage students to assess their own risk, BUT….”



I’ve just watched a documentary film that eradicates the “BUT”. A beautiful film that reminds us to not shy away from striving for what we truly think is best for our children.

NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back contrasts the high stakes testing that drives many an educational policy in the USA, with the “friluftsliv” (literally, ‘free air life’) philosophy that sees Danish schools using the outdoors to encourage mind-body-heart connections in education.

Beginning with a resonating introduction by Richard Louv (author of groundbreaking bestseller, Last Child in the Woods and cofounder of Children & Nature Network), the film then takes us to the USA to hear from school board members, teachers and recess advocates on the situation many find themselves in.

Without dwelling too long on the challenges many US state systems face, we are taken to Denmark to see a “udeskole” (‘outdoor school’) for ourselves. Here, we see teachers and administrators discussing how the pedagogies underpinning their schools encourages students to develop understandings with their whole body, not just with their heads.


NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back gives us beautiful insights into Scandinavian education systems. We hear of the integration that happens between teachers and disciplines in schools, the way nap-times are organised, the physical benefits of time outdoors, as well as social benefits. We hear intelligent perspectives on risk, on how the entire education system is embracing udeskole and using friluftsliv, no matter what their setting. Even the Minister for Education talks about this pedagogy being not only top-down, but bottom-up – and this is where the documentary film became super powerful for me.

Because not only are the teachers talking about how great it is for students to learn through direct contact with nature, and how they can never imagine not making it a priority. It’s the parents featured in this film who bring home the point that we need to TRUST our instincts when it comes to educating our children. That we need to TRUST in our children, and TRUST in our schools. That we need to TRUST our own instincts as parents when it comes to loving our children and wanting the best childhood, and life, for them. One parent even says, “I chose this school because there’s a soul here….because I love my child, and I want to give him the best.”

And this moving film is a perfect example of how we can do just that. Of how one system has pushed back against the “BUT”, and done exactly what they believe is best. So many times, teachers allow themselves to step away from what they believe is best for children because of that pesky “BUT”.

The timetables, the written curriculum, the way things have historically been done, the parental expectations, the physical surroundings, the funding. We let so many of them dictate the way we raise our children as human beings, as people who will go on to do incredible things and inherit the world.


NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back gives us practical, shining examples of how our mindsets can expand the boundaries we place on our children. I believe that when we give up what we instinctively feel is best, and give up on achieving this, we give up on our children.

For any educator who has ever said, “That would be amazing, BUT…”, this film is for you. For any parent who has ever said, “I would love that for my child, BUT…”, this film is for you. For any community who has ever said, “Wouldn’t it be cool! BUT….”, this film is for you.

Interspersed with powerful quotes from some of play and education’s biggest thinkers, let’s not forget to mention how stunning the backdrop for this film is. BUT don’t get distracted by it – NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back’s biggest impact will be on your thinking.

The film resonated with me for this reason – last year I realised that I was living and working in ways I didn’t believe in, and justifying it with a “BUT”. I TRUSTED my instincts to advocate for play in the lives of our children and left behind my incredible full-time teaching job. Standing up for what I believe in, and finding ways to get past the “BUT” when it pops up, has had huge implications for our family and the way we live our lives.

This film reminds us what is achievable if we truly want the best for our children, both today and tomorrow.


See the NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back trailer here.

Are you a community group or organisation, wanting to screen NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back? See here for how you can organise a screening of the film.

Thanks Aimie Stilling (producer/writer) and Daniel Stilling (director) for the opportunity to see your beautiful documentary film!



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