Happy Healthy Homestead

Book Review: How to Raise a Wild Child

This month I read:

How to Raise a Wild Child’ by Scott Sampson

Favorite Quotes:

“Play is the highest form of research” -Albert Einstein

“The major problems in the world are a result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think. “ -Gregory Bateson

“You can’t know who you are until you know where you are.” -Wendell berry

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” -Walt Streightiff

Main Takeaways:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The author did a fantastic job at explaining the problem most kids today are facing with not being close to nature and mostly on screens. Throughout the book he provides fun and practical tips to incorporate more nature in your child’s life and as a family. Our family is already outside quite a bit, but even for us this book gave me ideas that I could implement. I definitely recommend this read.

Summary of Notes:

-He grew up playing in the Vancouver forest, being out all day with his friend and dog.

-Later once he became a paleontologist and went to far off countries looking for dinosaur fossils, he lived in tents for months and encountered wild animals including: bear, elephant, alligator, etc

-today the average American kid spends 5-30 min outside per day. Very drastic change than where we were 30 years ago

-today American kids spend several hours, often 7 hours or more on screens (phones, iPads, gaming, etc)

-the average American kid can recognize up to 1,000 logos but can’t identify 10 plants to their native region

-18% of kids are obese and 11% have ADHD

-parents are afraid to let their child play outdoors unattended in case of an abduction. However the odds of child abduction isn’t any greater today than it was in the 50s and 60s.

-many parents (well intentioned) will schedule dance, soccer, piano, etc after school so there is little or no time for unstructured play

-there is also less green spaces to play with the increase in urban development

-“nature’s impacts extend far beyond physical fitness, encompassing intellectual and emotional health, self identity, and basic values and morals.“

-“smelling a wildflower in an alpine meadow, sprinting into the ocean surf, and sharing a face to face encounter with a coyote are all experiences that dude mightily from virtual alternatives.” Author

-“to walk a trail after bushwhacking is to cross mental borders: the border between lost and found, not knowing and knowing, no human and human, wild and tame, hard and easy, dangerous and safe, deciding and merely following…to walk a trail after bushwhacking is to dumb down” philosopher Jack Turner

-“nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” Gary Snyder

-simply being in the presence of natural landscapes tends to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Such experiences lower mental fatigue and boost mental clarity while enhancing both work performance and healing. One early study found that surgery patients recovered faster and required less pain medication if their hospital room had a window overlooking a natural setting.

-daily/weekly settings in nature in backyard, parks, paths, etc are great

-also try to do a few per year truely wild excursion. Hike off path. Etc.

Secret#1 for raising a wild child:

A deep connection with nature doesn’t only arise through periodic trips to Paris. While such trips can leave deep impressions, even more important are abundant experiences in wild or semi wild places, typically close to home

Nature mentoring tips:

-make new habits:

-get out on weekends: forest rope course blindfolded and name every sound they can hear, nighttime walks on beach

-invite the wild into your yard: bird feeders, birdhouses, birdbaths. Add bat box, seed native plants.

-make the schoolyard the classroom

-3 themes have emerged for me (author) as being critical in promoting nature connection: experience, mentoring, and understanding

-experience: unstructured time in the backyard, weekends at park or wilderness

-mentoring: not to pass down information, but engaging in playful side by side exploration

-understanding: how does the suns energy flow through your local ecosystem? How does matter cycle around it in loops, moving from plants to animals and back to soil? What’s the story of your place? Where does your food and water come from? Where does your waste go?

-have backyard sit spot

-give children freedom to grow


Children will tend to value what you do, so start noticing nature yourself, taking a few minutes each day to become more aware of the other-than-human works around you.

Mentor tips:

-start noticing nature: before rushing to the car notice the weather, clouds, etc. whenever possible, enjoy sunsets

-explore local nature: backyard etc

-visit your local nature institution: natural history museums, zoos, aquariums, planetariums, botanical gardens, and nature centers.

-seek out nature-related media: books, websites, movies.

-getting started: nature journaling (draw picture and describe it)

-Pay attention to your mentee: how does your child learn best? Through stories or hands on activities? Alone or with other children? What most interested in?

-Be an active listener and questioner

-in most situations let child take the lead

-keep a nature journal

-keep a nature table. Can collect leaves, bones, rocks, sticks, pine cones, even live bugs and critters in clear containers with holes in them.

-story telling about nature adventures at the family dinner table

-when mentoring don’t just give the answer right away when the question is asked (what kind of bird is that), but ask them questions that will help them to learn and peak their curiosity

-ask child to imagine what it feels like to be a giant tree. To have roots in the earth, a trunk pulling up water from the earth, thousands of green leaves soaking up sunlight. (Do this with different types of animals etc)

-try acting out and walking like a bear or a deer


Pay close attention to children’s interaction with nature and follow their lead. Tailoring experiences and questions to kids specific interests is the best path toward inspiring passion for the natural world.

Open senses and expand awareness

-deer ears: deer have amazing hearing. Try having children cup their hands to their ears and notice the difference in sounds they can pick up. Ask them the most distant sound they can hear and trial number of sounds they can identify.

-Owl eyes: ask kids to look straight ahead and move their outstretched hands from behind their head to when they come in view. What is the most distant thing they can see?

-sneaker game: have kids in circle with one in middle blindfolded. Have keys in a hat near person in middle. Have kids try to get the keys without getting caught. If person in the middle hears and points to who it is they have to return to circle and wait for another turn. Move from soft grass to sticks and leaves for a bigger challenge.

Problem with education:

-Schooling doesn’t help children to be interested in nature or learning. By being seated in desks with 4 walls all day.

-“At the risk of sounding overly harsh, public education in North America today is still geared toward control, obedience, and self-restraint much more than engagement, inspiration, and empowerment. “

-teachers yearn to make a difference but are trapped in the current system where they have little or no flexibility to do so

-Finland is a good example of a country where kids test near the highest on global assessments, teachers are paid much more, and kids have more time outside.

-American schools which rank 20th in the world Leah towards more classroom time , longer days and shorter recess. While Finland, opts for shorter school hours and more playtime where play mostly occurs outdoors even in their cold months.

-they also have an abundant amount of forest kindergarten.

-kids at forest schools have a lower incidence of accidents, in part because they learn to access risks and gain confidence by moving through a range of settings.

-if you are a parent consider working through the PTA to ask for more place-based elements in the curriculum, more free time outdoors, embracing school yard as learning environment, and more nature based field trips.

-green schools: diverse greenery, native plants, rain captures watering systems, nesting boxes for birds, veggie garden, butterfly garden, hummingbird garden, habitat for bees, pond/wetlands for dragonflies, frogs. Grey water from school, solar energy

Food as nature:

-have a garden at school or at home, teaching kids how to eat seasonally, how to grow plants, cook food, and use less wasteful packaging

Secret #4:

Begin with the big idea that everything (including us) is interwoven with everything else. Then seek out regular opportunities to feed the flame of wonderful with this insight.

take learning outdoors:

-practice math with a stick on the dirt

-do reading under a big tree

-set a table outside for homework / paperwork

-give thanks for food

-visit a local farm

-tell personal nature stories to your kids about your childhood

-adult nature writings by naturalists. See list of authors on of 131

-see if your ancestry or local area has indigenous people and what their stories were


Everything around is interconnected. Understanding this story can foster deep nature connection.

-sometimes bringing a crying infant (or even older child) outside and point at something can help soothe them

-today we regard play as trivial, for kids to burn off energy. But the benefits of play include deep learning and play an important role in child’s emotional and social development. In addition physical learnings like movement, balance, sensory, motor skills.

Natural playgrounds:

-logs, musical instruments made from wood, boulders

-American academy of pediatrics recommends a minimum of 60 min unstructured play per day for children

Family nature clubs:

-the children and nature network (through this network you can set up your own club in your local area)

-high park rangers, muddy boots, dangerous dads

-KIVA, kids in the valley adventuring (Virginia)

-nerds for nature

-when playing in a stream, bring small net so child can catching passerby critters

Wilderness adventure providers for teens:

-outward bound

-national outdoor leadership

-student conservation association

-elk: environmental learning for kids

Nature schools in California:

-wilderness awareness school

-weaving earth

-Rotes of passage

-check out 8 shields institute (offers products, books, recordings, workshops, and support networks). “Art of mentoring” week long in Santa Cruz mountains


-the 21st century wild child will need to learn how to balance and integrate both technology and nature.

-(see book for secrets 6-9)