The frustrations of everyday wild time & tips for the school holidays.

Natalie Johnson, Wild Crew member and mum of 3 (un-wild) kids shares her tips for the school holidays. In summary: hang in there.

You might think they were naturally programmed to be wild, my kids. Kids of The Wild Network must surely embody the mantra and live the dream, right? Well, they love an opportunity to climb a tree, but let’s not go, a-hem: wild.

It’s been a deliberate progression, nurtured since I started working here at The Wild Network some 18 months ago. A long (for the kids) time of the drip, dip, drip of nature and wild chat. The subliminal wildness I’ve been putting into them. The calls to take the long way home through the park and over-the-top observations of nature – from weeds to birdsong or bird poo!  

Joking aside, this is the whole point of our organisation’s existence: to nudge and shimmy people to take those tiny steps to Wild Time.  Give them an idea, a nugget of wild thought and help them understand that the benefits can outweigh the effort.

They’ve become far wilder lately, our kids. It really does work. These urban and suburban kids can be rewilded – if we can find a way to connect them with a real, authentic experience.

Most recent proof came in the form of a tiny triumph

It was a loud, angry phone call from my eldest. She was storming home from school alone (having left her sisters behind). She called me, indignant and fuming with rage at something from school, yet announced that she would walk through the cemetery so that the nature would help her “calm down and get over it”. 

There’s a path cut into the nature meadow in the cemetery (which, the cynic in me thinks started because it’s tricky for them to cut around old graves). Yet, it looks lovely and is becoming a little nature haven. All summer long you see little ones plodding along the single mowed track, looking at the long grass and flowers and all sorts of little naturey things around them.


On one walk to school my youngest shouted, “Look out for the pink dragonfly things, Mum, they are cool.” After much trying and failing we managed to snap one and share on The Wild Network’s Facebook page. Thanks to our super sleuth members, we found that these ‘pink dragonfly things’ are actually a 5 spot Burnet moth. They definitely do look pink when they fly. And it dawned on me. It was starting to happen: the kids were voluntarily (or even involuntarily) noticing nature.

So it’s all perfect in our house and we’re set for a wild summer, then? Not so much.  

It’s a daily nightmare.

While this post started off so positively, the truth is, it's hard. SO. VERY. HARD. They are still sat downstairs now, in the lounge, on multiple devices while simultaneously watching TV. Will they go outside? No. They aren’t “GOING ANYWHERE” you see. Frustratingly, it seems we have a long way to go before Wild Time filters through fully and consistently. There is much work to be done on the rewilding of my children.

But it is changing, so I'll take those small victories and keep on plodding...  And in the hope of helping you, here are some holiday tips for your own little Wild Time triumphs.

A few minutes a day is all takes.

One sentence a day. One observation a day. One wild step a day. As they say, slowly slowly catchy monkey. Or catchy wild child. And just get started. Don’t make it complicated, but do just start. 

1. Make tiny pockets of time for every day wildness.

Without the school routine this can be easier to do than usual (or harder, depending on the mood!).

Make a commitment to leaving the house 5 mins earlier. Then walk (cycle, or drive) the long way through nature to go anywhere.

 2. Nature-connection not car connection.

Try and walk some journeys that you would normally make by car. It’s far easier to notice nature at 3 mph than 30 mph.

 3. Normalise Wild Time, like other stuff, in with daily activities.

Try a daily checklist for routine:

  • Make bed
  • Brush teeth
  • Eat breakfast
  • Get 10mins of Wild Time
  • Read a book, or magazine for 10 mins
  • Do your house jobs (insert extra long list here!)
  • Chill out anyway you wish – for 20 mins.
  • Repeat until bed time!

 4. Go with them (at least to start with).

If they aren’t used to being let loose in the big world, don’t just chuck them out there. They will ricochet back before you’ve had time to flick the kettle on! (Read more about how that happened to us, here!)

 5. Make new holiday habits & start traditions

Call a friend and get their kids out, too. Once you start making the wild time change, others will join you. Kids playing together, learning together etc. It works. Parents giving joint permission, fewer frowny neighbours – it’s a win for everyone.

6. Tech is not your enemy

Harness the power of the tech...  The Wild Explorers App is free and brilliant for younger kids, with over 100 ideas for Wild Time.  We developed it for Persil to help kids get more wild play. We trialled it on (and modelled it on) our own un-wild kids.

Geocaching was here long before Pokemon GO and both are fun ways of getting the older kids out. Kind of like baiting a small grizzly bear. And fractionally less dangerous. 

May the Force (of nature) be with you in your quest for Wild Time.


Natalie Johsnon is our Wild Time Partnerships Lead and mum to 3 averagely wild kids.


The Persil Wild Explorers App - free, fun and SAFE FOR THEIR OWN DEVICES! Yes, really. 

Do your kids know how to play out? Ours didn't after all!

Your own Wild Local - want to set up a really wild club? Here's how.

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