059: How to Raise a Wild Child

So you listened to episode 58 and you’re convinced of the benefits of outdoor play. But you’re a grown-up. You don’t play outdoors. And you don’t know anything about nature.  How can you possibly get started in helping your child to play outdoors more?

There are a number of books out there on getting outside with children – some arguably more well-known than this one, but I have to say that Dr. Scott Sampson’s book How to Raise a Wild Child is the BEST book I’ve seen on this topic because it balances just the right amount of information on why it’s important to get outside, with just enough pointers on how to do it, without overwhelming you with hundreds of options to choose between.  And it turns out that you don’t need to know a thing at all about The Environment to have a successful outing with children!

If you’ve been wishing you could get outdoors more but just don’t know where to start, then this episode – and book! – are for you.

Other shows referenced in this episode

058: What are the benefits of outdoor play?



Gopnik, A. (2009). The philosophical baby: What children’s minds tell us about truth, love, and the meaning of life. New York, NY: Picador.

Sampson, S.D. (2015). How to raise a wild child: The art and science of falling in love with nature. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Affiliate link)

Young, J., Haas, E., & McGown, E. (2010). Coyote’s guide to connecting with nature. OWLink Media.

Also published on Medium.


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  1. Sarah on June 24, 2018 at 6:29 PM

    Hi Jenn, such a great episode! One question I had while listening was about the value of outdoor free play in a place like a yard. My kids spend a lot of time outside in the yard, which I’ve manufactured to be kid friendly– a slide, a trampoline, sandbox, plenty of outdoor toys. It’s a safe enclosed space where I feel comfortable leaving them unsupervised. I know this sort of unsupervised self-directed play has tons of value, but I’m wondering about the hierarchy of backyard play in the “wild child” outdoor-focused framework. In some respects it’s reminiscent of the playground which you mentioned as being less ideal as an outdoor space. In other ways it’s a familiar outdoor space with a bit of a garden where we watch birds and clouds and bugs and plants as they grow and change through the seasons, amidst the trampoline and bulldozer play. Do you have any hunches about the quality of this space vs. more naturalized spaces?

    • Jen Lumanlan on July 11, 2018 at 4:02 PM

      Hi Sarah – I think both kinds of outdoor time have value, in different ways. It’s awesome that you feel comfortable leaving your children in the back yard unsupervised – they need that time to create their own games, come up with their own rules, and sort out their disagreements. (You might also consider adding some “loose parts” – toys that can be played with in many ways – like buckets, planks of wood, tree stumps, guttering, and perhaps even a hose (with a flow regulator that you control at the tap)).

      You could also encourage your children to use your garden as a “sit spot” – for more info on that, check out Jon Young’s book “Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature.”

      They will get different things from being “in the wilderness” (which, we should acknowledge, isn’t really wilderness any more) – how to evaluate risks in new places; how to put information they learned about the habits of the birds that live in your garden into practice elsewhere; how to navigate, etc.

      So I don’t see this as either/or, but rather both/and.

      Hope this helps!

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