Meaningless Play

contributed by Tommy Tye

Years ago, I helped out at a “nature-oriented” summer camp. I have a strong memory of a flawless day in early summer. The lazy buzz of cicadas filtered through the shady forest. Waves whispered their secrets along the shore of the pond. And delightful laughter warbled spontaneously from running children playing a hide-and-seek game.

PracticaForest Caterpillars by Ann Turner lly Norman Rockwell, isn’t it?

Until “Don’t go in the GREENERY!” admonished the naturalist. Zzzrrrrrppp (record scratch)!

Why in the world would we not let kids go in the forest at a nature camp? Well, the plain fact was that the naturalists weren’t comfortable in nature and they sure didn’t know how to help others be comfortable and safe there. So much for connection and learning.

True story.


At Wild Intelligence, we live in the greenery.

It’s where the wild things are … including us.Summer Camp 2015 by Ann Turner

We eat from the wild, catch things, climb, crawl, swing swords, hide, seek, shout, sneak, dance, practice archery, run through the woods, tell stories, build forts, carve with knives, imagine we are animals, play in the creek, and make fires.

On purpose.

Along the way, we become vigorous and agile and alert. We become comfortable in nature, and in our own skins. We also learn from our own direct personal experience, which may be the best teacher we ever have. If we are not careful, we will fall in love with nature. And ourselves.

So we play. A lot.

What looks like meaningless play, isn’t meaningless or play. It’s what healthy children do for a living.

summer camp 2015 by Ann TurnerOf course, we share a great deal of skills and information about our world, like how to play in the “greenery” safely. Or how to make medicine, and what the birds are saying, and how to get along with your neighbor. But we place more emphasis on relationship. Our work is less about learning objectives, and more about connection.

Judging by this article by David Sobel (1), we’ve got all our grits in one bowl. He implores environmental educators to provide plenty of down-and-dirty rollin’ around in nature and to emphasize hands-on experience over systemic knowledge.

Awwww Yeeaaahhhh! That’s us!

summer camp by Ann TurnerMr. Sobel not only suggests that these embodied experiences in the wild make kids healthy and happy, but that they will become more environmentally caring adults. And he cites several studies to back it up. In short, Dirty Kids Now = Fierce Lovers of Nature Later.

That’s what I’m talking about! I think me and David would get along just fine.

Pro Tip #1 – Direct, personal experience in nature benefits everyone, not just kids. Get Out There!

How? Well, I’m glad you asked! We’ll share a lot more on this soon (so subscribe!), but until then you can:


  • Simply hang out on your deck or in your backyard (yes, that counts)
  • Take a micro-break: pause a moment in your daily doin’s to breathe, check in with your senses, and notice what is going on around you (this is waaayyyy more helpful than you might think)
  • Take your kids to a local park or wander the trails in your local green spaces
  • Come chat with us at the Farmer’s Market in Bishop Park on October 3
  • Join us for our 30-day Sit Spot Challenge beginning October 1, 2015
  • Stay tuned for upcoming workshops soon to be announced at
  • Support our Fall Festival on November 14. There will be music and all sorts of fun activities!

Teen Adventure Camp by Jenny DeRevere Remember that connection is about community, so if you liked this post, share the love. Pass it on through your favorite social media.

If you want to know more about us or would like to get involved, we’d love to hear from you.



1  Sobel, D. (2012, July/August). Look, Don’t Touch. Orion Magazine. Retrieved from

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