Episode #319: How Nature Play Sparks Brain Development with Kim Willson Pediatric OT

Please remember that the views on this podcast and website are not meant to be substituted for medical advice, shouldn’t be used to diagnose, treat or cure any conditions, and are intended for general information purposes only.

Occupational therapy isn’t just a fancy clinic where kids who struggle go for therapy. Imagine a clinic being the great outdoors! Using nature as a kid’s backdrop to spark brain development is what we discuss in today’s episode with Kim Wilson, OT of Nature’s Path. 

During this episode, we learn what occupational therapy really is. Do kids have an occupation they need therapy for?

Hint: A kid’s occupation is PLAY!

To use kid’s play, especially in the outdoors, has SO many benefits. In today’s episode, Kim teaches about all those benefits and practical ways to utilize the outdoors to optimize our kid’s brain and overall development! 

Topics Discussed: 

  • How nature provides the best experience and exposure to spark brain development 
  • How the outdoors creates new synaptic connections 
  • What the ultimate environment looks like for kids – peaceful, quiet, open nature versus parks, amusement parks, etc. 
  • Attention restoration theory and how different types of input inside versus outside can impact the brain
  • How playgrounds may not be the best way to foster inner directive play
  • Why doing less is more when it comes to children’s activities
  • How moms can use “activity analysis” to learn and observe developmental gaps in their child
  • Trends Kim is seeing in her 17 years of this work what to look out for

Show Notes:

  • Visit Kim’s Website
  • Follow @natures.path.ot on Instagram
  • Handout Links
  • Click here to learn more about Dr. Elana Roumell’s Doctor Mom Membership, a membership designed for moms who want to be their child’s number one health advocate!
  • Click here to learn more about Steph Greunke, RD’s online nutrition program and community, Postpartum Reset, an intimate private community and online roadmap for any mama (or mama-to-be) who feels stuck, alone, and depleted and wants to learn how to thrive in motherhood

Follow Steph & Dr. Elana on Instagram

This episode’s sponsors

Enjoy the health benefits of PaleoValley’s products such as their supplements, superfood bars and meat sticks. Receive 15% off your purchase by heading to paleovalley.com/doctormom

Active Skin Repair is a must have for everyone to keep themselves and their families healthy and clean. Keep a bottle in the car to spray your face after removing your mask, a bottle in your medicine cabinet to replace your toxic first aid products, and one in your outdoor pack for whatever life throws at you. Use code DOCTORMOM to receive 20% off your order + free shipping (with $35 minimum purchase). Visit BLDGActive.com to order.

Discover for yourself why Needed is trusted by women’s health practitioners and mamas alike to support optimal pregnancy outcomes. Try their 4 Part Complete Nutrition plan which includes a Prenatal Multi, Omega-3, Collagen Protein, and Pre/Probiotic. To get started, head to thisisneeded.com, and use code DOCTORMOM20 for 20% off Needed’s Complete Plan!


This episode’s guest


Kim is the owner and founder of Nature’s Path Occupational Therapy, and is a pediatric occupational therapist in Colorado Springs, CO. With 17 years of experience as an OT, her initial 3 years were dedicated to adult neuro-rehab, focusing on brain and spinal cord injuries. She continues PRN work with this group. For the past 13 years, Kim has specialized in pediatric clinic-based and early intervention services, often incorporating outdoor therapy. Witnessing nature’s therapeutic benefits both professionally and as a mother of 6, she is fervently devoted to integrating nature into childhood development. Nature’s Path was conceived as an alternative therapeutic model. Kim holds a B.S. in Occupational Therapy from Boston University and an M.S. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Alabama, where she also earned her Low Vision certificate. As a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), she supports the mother-baby dyad in the infant’s first year, addressing infant and toddler feeding from a developmentally holistic perspective. Beyond her roles as a mother and OT, Kim enjoys running, hiking, snowboarding, camping, and exploring the mountains.