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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.
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
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
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
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.
References, Further Reading, and Websites 225
About the Author 231