Film Review: Mother Nature’s Child

Our species has existed for at least 200,000 years. During that time connections to the natural world were at the very core of human experience. What are the implications, to individuals and society as a whole, when those connections are severed within just a few decades?

Mother Nature’s Child, the new documentary by Camilla Rockwell, explores what is gained and lost during our developmental years based on our degree of exposure to the natural world. Today most American children spend almost 70 hours in front of a monitor for every hour spent outside. Are dramatically increasing rates of obesity, bullying, and attention-deficit disorder related to this trend?

Mother Nature’s Child chronicles the powerful effects on children’s happiness, physical and emotional health, intelligence, and compassion when they are allowed time to explore in nature. Though the film makes no final judgment about the use of technology or lifestyle choices, the children and teens featured in the film clearly demonstrate the benefits of their time outside.

The film raises the question: what is the comparative risk of overprotecting our children due to fears about what may happen to them outside versus the health effects of being cut off from nature? Since individuals who work as stewards of the natural world usually point to critical formative experiences in nature they had when they were young, what does a generation’s loss of this exposure mean for the future of the Earth?

These are serious questions and this is a serious topic. Mother Nature’s Child delves into them in a compassionate, artistic, and richly rewarding way. This is a film that all parents and educators should see. More information about the film may be found at

Tom Wessels is an ecologist and founding director of the master’s degree program in Conservation Biology at Antioch University New England. His several books include Reading the Forested Landscape.