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Learn How to Connect Kids to the Great Outdoors

» Introduction
Put one hand over your eyes. Hold it there. Now open your fingers wide. Your child’s world bursts open just like that when you let them “grow up wild.” Have them feel the slickness of mud between their toes and the roughness of tree bark on their fingers, listen to the hum of the wind and the burp of frogs. Their view of the world and their place in it grows as wide as their smile. State parks are great places to do that. Here are five tips to help every kid “grow up wild."
» Step 1
Surprise! Never “lead” a child on a hike; let them lead you. Let them discover the deer tracks or bird feathers first and share their surprise with you. Children love surprises and nature is full of them. Let them be the discoverers.

The Game of Living Things Give each child a pocket notebook and pencil. Have them keep lists of every living thing they see in categories (birds, flowers, animals, insects) and tally the score at the end of the trail.

Glow in the Dark Even the tamest trail goes “wild” at night. With glow sticks on their wrists to help you keep track of them (or pocket flashlights with red lenses) take a night hike and explore the wild world of the dark.

Wild Weather Not the sunny day you hoped for? Go out anyway. With the right gear and an eye toward safety, wild weather can be exhilarating. Bundle up. Don rubber boots. Put up an umbrella. Nature doesn’t stop in a storm; neither should you.

Trust Hikes Nature can be experienced with all the senses. On a beach, a safe stretch of trail, or around camp, let your kids blindfold you and lead you on a “trust walk.” Then, blindfold them and let them experience the touch, taste, feel, and smells of nature as you supervise.

Copyright © Jeff Rennicke

Jeff Rennicke is a nationally-known writer and speaker, and a teacher at Conserve School in northern Wisconsin. For information on his popular “Growing Up Wild” program go to (posted to Gaia)

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