Saturday, 30 January 2016

Wildflowers - Book Review, How to Raise a Wild Child

Growing up, some of my fondest memories take place outside, I imagine and hope that many cusped Gen Xers/ Millennials feel the same way.  In early years, these memories took place in my backyard, eventually moving to the ravine, park, and surrounding area.  On our annual trip up north each year we'd spend hours searching for clam shells, swimming, balancing on giant air plane tires and falling into the water almost as often.  At night we'd play "Wolf", essentially a game of hide and seek where you had to howl like a wolf every so often to help give clues to the person who was "It".  Parents were always nearby, but never helicoptering, and it was great!

I want the same sorts of experiences for Molly and Jack, despite us all living in the city (and not the suburbs 25 years ago), which is part of the reason I was intrigued by Scott D Sampson's book, How to Raise a Wild Child, The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature.  Don't get me wrong, we love living in the city, but want both kids to develop a strong appreciation and love of the great outdoors.

You might recognize Dr. Scott from his role as resident paleontologist, on air host and series science advisor, on the hit children's television show Dinosaur Train.  This show is known for the tag line (created by Sampson's wife), "Get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries."   In his book he discusses ways and benefits of getting children involved with nature at any age, with specific focuses on early childhood, middle childhood, and tween/teen years.

Sampson discusses Nature Mentoring Tips, and practical applications, and stories from his childhood and life with his own children to help inspire.  While I feel this book has more to offer for parents with slightly older children then mine, there are some great tips on small ways to get your children more involved in nature at any age, I'm pretty proud that we already practice a lot of Sampson's tips for Nature appreciation for little ones with the minions, although I imagine most people who haven't considered the importance of outdoor activities for their children probably won't read this book.

This book touches on the tip of the iceberg about the unhealthy increase in screen time our children experience, paired with extremely limited free play and time outside.  The lifelong love affair with media starts early with 47 percent of children aged zero to one watching TV or DVDs and those who watch spending an average of nearly two hours a day of screen time.  Older kids today spend an average of more than seven hours each day in front of electronic media, and in sad contrast only four to seven MINUTES each day in unstructured outdoor activities such as climbing trees, building forts, playing hide and seek, tag, or riding a bike.

Molly and Jack on a hike fall 2015.

Sampson talks about embracing outdoors as close to home as possible by spending time in your backyard, keeping a bird feeder, and finding daily space to enjoy nature with your kids.  His book also touches lightly on the awesome Bienenstock (Natural) Playground trend, and provides sample unstructured and organized activities (like family nature groups, visiting farms and geocaching) to help increase your families time living life, and balancing a love of nature with modern technology.

If you're looking for some ways to get everyone in your home outside and offline a little more I recommend picking up a copy from your local library, bookstore or Amazon, particularly if your kids are in the eight to 13 age range.   The book also provides an interesting examination of older kids (and at risk kids) and increased involvement in nature as a great way to build confidence and practice safe(r) risk taking.  I'll probably reread it in a few years, after the first time one of the minions asks me for a cell phone.

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