Were you a wild child? Are your kids wild children? According to Dr. Scott Sampson, if the answer to the former is yes then you were raised right and if the answer to the latter is yes, then you are raising your kids right. Dr. Sampson is a paleontologist by training who has become a leading voice on the importance of nature time in kids’ lives. His book, How to Raise a Wild Child, and a TED talk of the same name detail the positive impacts that time in nature has on kids. He explains that science has only found more and more evidence that time outside provides benefits to physical, mental and emotional health, benefits that are perfectly poised to counter growing trends of poor health in North American children. Dr. Sampson notes that engagement in the outdoors is key. Kids sitting on the back porch with an iPad won’t be any healthier, but kids who go splash in the creek, chase grasshoppers through long summer grass, wonder at hummingbirds delicately sipping nectar from gorgeous wildflowers, and actively engage with the world around them are the ones who gain the most benefits from their time outside. This can be as simple as growing a backyard or schoolyard garden in which to watch native pollinators work with native plants that can then be harvested and eaten by those kids who planted them (turns out kids eat their veggies more when they’re proud of growing them). If your kids are spending the US average of 4-10 minutes outside and 7-10 hours on a screen, then maybe it’s time to put up the screens and go explore the little wonders of the world around them. Better yet, go enjoy the outdoors with them because kids value what the adults around them do and you’ll experience the health benefits of being outside too. So go for a walk, sit on the porch, or in a park, or under a tree, and just notice the birds and insects and plants that are everywhere around us. In wilding your child, you might as well go about rewilding yourself. I think you’ll find you enjoy it as much as they do.
Below is a link to Dr. Sampson’s TED talk. I highly recommend watching it and also reading his book if you are looking for more in-depth work on the subject.