Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors

Overview

When David Sobel’s children were toddlers, he set out to integrate a wide range of nature experiences into their family life, play, and storytelling. Blending his passion as a parent with his professional expertise, he created adventures tailored to their developmental stages: cultivating empathy with animals in early childhood, exploring the woods in middle childhood, and devising rites of passage in adolescence. This book is Sobel’s vivid and moving memoir of their journey and an inspiring guide for other ...

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Overview

When David Sobel’s children were toddlers, he set out to integrate a wide range of nature experiences into their family life, play, and storytelling. Blending his passion as a parent with his professional expertise, he created adventures tailored to their developmental stages: cultivating empathy with animals in early childhood, exploring the woods in middle childhood, and devising rites of passage in adolescence. This book is Sobel’s vivid and moving memoir of their journey and an inspiring guide for other parents who seek to help their children bond with the natural world. As we share this family's experiences, we observe how wild play in nature hones a sense of wonder, provides healthy challenges, and nurtures Earth stewardship—and we share Sobel’s joy as his children, Eli and Tara, grow into earthbound, grounded young adults.

Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods identified the urgent problem of “nature deficit” in today’s children, sounding the alarm for parents, educators, and policy makers. Wild Play is a hopeful response, offering families myriad ways to blaze their own trails; it should become another classic in this field.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578051762
  • Publisher: Sierra Club Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface 13

Meeting the author's family; touring the neighborhood where his children, Tara and Eli, grew up.

Introduction: Trails into the Woods 21

The challenge of preserving a natural childhood in a technological age. The unique character of each developmental stage and the kind of relationship to cultivate between children and nature at each stage. How the book came to be.

Part 1 Early Childhood in the Meadow

Prelude 37

Encouraging young children's gifts for empathy, metaphor, and animating aspects of nature.

1 A Little Love between Us and the Trees: Language and Metaphor in Tara's World 43

How early language development draws on the natural world and ecological metaphors, based on the author's experience with his daughter.

2 Deer Inside: Fostering an Alliance with Animals 57

Using dreams and stories to transform young children's natural awe and sometime fearfulness of animals into feelings of affinity and respect. How Eli began to knit his psychic life to our local wildlife.

3 Moon-Jumping Nights: Reanimating the Natural World 65

Children's tendency to perceive inanimate things as alive is considered endearing yet primitive, a characteristic of minds not yet acquainted with the real world. It may be time to reevaluate our attitude toward personifying nature.

4 The Mermaids and the Necklace: Magical Realism as a Family Art 75

The virtues of mixing invention and reality-both grounded in the outdoors-into family storytelling.

5 Together in Dreamland: Bridging the Sadness of Separation 87

Separating from parents is a challenge at the end of early childhood; one place to find solace can be in the landscape of dreams.

Part 2 Middle Childhood in the Forest

Prelude 99

Encouraging wild play, exploration, and a sense of oneness with nature.

6 Bare Hands and Bear Dens: Exploring beyond Home Ground 107

Caves, cliffs, and adventures on a dad-and-kids spring outing before bug season. Also, a Wilderness Awareness School outing with California children, and some principles for supporting children's nature play.

7 Burning Brush: Playing with Fire 119

Eli ventures further from home and has some risky adventures. Guiding his desire to make fire, and the role of fire in forging an independent self.

8 The Emerald Chandelier: Magical Realism Revisited 131

Storytelling across a decade of childhood, weaving together the natural history of New England, real events in family life, and far-flung adventures. Serendipity and synchronicity as keys to good stories.

9 Moving in My Heart: A Divorce Mediated by Nature 145

Mediating the emotional pain of divorce through immersion in the natural world; a transition from middle childhood to adolescence.

Part 3 Adolescence on the Rodky Ridg

Prelude 163

Feeding the need for appropriate risk, rites of passage, and new relationships in adolescence.

10 Assessing Ice: Risk and Reward on Skates 171

A father and daughter's coming of age through ice-skating explorations.

11 Doing Tuckerman's: Rites of Passage at the Right Time 185

For Eli, as for many hardcore New England skiers, Tuckerman's Ravine on Mount Washington becomes a calling at the dawn of adolescence.

12 The Door in the Rock: Canyoneering in Zion 195

Moving beyond father-and-daughter to a collegial relationship through adventures in the slot canyons of Utah.

13 Bow Loop and Brimstone: The Open Road, Only Better 207

A parenting swan song to the adults the author's children have become and the natural-world aesthetics and commitments they carry with them.

Acknowledgments 221

References, Further Reading, and Websites 225

About the Author 231

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