Thursday, January 15, 2015

Continuing the countdown of nature mentoring tips leading up to the publication of "How to Raise a Wild Child," here's this week's offering.

Nature Mentoring tip #8

Too often these days, children’s encounters with nature are dominated by a look-but-don’t-touch directive. Fearing that we must protect nature and our kids at all cost, we often do far more harm than good. Nature connection depends on firsthand, multisensory encounters. It’s a messy, dirty business—picking leaves and flowers, turning over rocks, holding wriggling worms, splashing in ponds. Lacking such experiences, children’s growth is impoverished and they’re unlikely to care for, let alone protect, natural places. So loosen up and find some hands-on nature experiences for the kids in your life. Rather than telling kids “no” all the time when they want to climb a tree, throw a rock, or step into a muddy pond, take a deep breath and offer words of encouragement. Don’t worry so much about the dirt and scrapes. Clothes and bodies can be washed, cuts heal.

Most of the time, kids don’t need to be shown how to connect with nature. It’s engrained in their DNA. Rather than seeing nature connection as something you need to teach young children, the real key is simply to take them outside and let them do what comes naturally! At least on occasion, seek out some wilder places where kids can go off-trail and bushwhack a little. Nature connection is a contact sport, and nature can take it! 

Don't forget to preorder your copy of "How to Raise a Wild Child," due out March 24th!

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Nature Mentoring Tip # 9: Open Senses & Expand Awareness

In the countdown to the March 24th release of "How to Raise a Wild Child," here is #9 in the Top 10 Nature Mentoring Tips!

Nature Mentoring Tip #9

Whether wandering, sit spotting, or just hanging out in nature, it’s important to fully open your senses and expand your awareness to everything around you. Encourage the children you’re with to do the same. To begin, play with Deer Ears and Owl Eyes. Deer have amazing hearing, thanks in part to their very large ears, which capture the faintest of sounds. Try having children (or adults) cup their hands behind their ears and notice the difference in the sounds they can pick up. Ask them to figure out the most distant sound they can hear, and the total number of different sounds they can identify. Similarly, owls have amazing eyesight (and hearing). In this case, invite kids to soften their vision so that they can see as much as possible in multiple directions. Ask them to look straight ahead and move their outstretched hands forward from behind their heads to find the point where their hands first come into view. What is the most distant thing they can see? Then, on subsequent visits outdoors, pause once in a while to remind kids to use their Deer Ears and Owl Eyes. The mentor’s role is to continually push the boundaries of the child’s sensory sphere, helping her to see, hear, feel, touch, and smell the everyday nature that surrounds us.

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Make New Nature Habits

Happy New Year everyone!! The Whirlpool of Life has taken a lengthy hiatus as I finished my most recent book, "How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature." Oh, and I have a day job to contend with too at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. However, the book is now completed and scheduled for release on March 24th. Here's the Amazon page, in case you're interested. 

So I thought it'd be appropriate to feature a parallel countdown of nature mentoring tips, building on tips I have shared before. But let's call these the Nature Mentoring Top 10. And, since there's no better time of year to consider establishing new habits, we'll kick things off with some new nature habits.

Nature Mentoring Tip #10
Changing behaviors is all about making new habits. So start a habit of getting the children in your life into nature more often. Take some time to discover the varieties of wild or semiwild nature close to your home and explore these places with your children. For young children, it might be the local park, the schoolyard, or your backyard. Even a few minutes a day is a great start. Chances are you and your kids will quickly discover that there’s far more to see and do than you imagined. Most young children will have no problem engaging with their natural surroundings. Their curious minds are built to do just that. Older children who’ve established a bias toward electronic screens may take a little more coaxing; this is where grown-ups need to exercise some imagination, and even foster a trickster mentality. Rather than telling children that they need to go out because it’s good for them, think about encouraging them to play games like tag and kick the can. The key here is to establish nature as the fun and preferred option for playtime. And here’s another habit to work on: the more you demonstrate the value of nature through your own actions, the more kids will tend to adopt the same value.