Growing up in NYC I didn’t have many opportunities to be out in nature except for going to the park nearby our home or visiting Central Park on a weekend, however ever since I could remember I have always felt drawn to nature. I still remember when the street I grew up in was all concrete and there wasn’t a tree in sight. As a young girl I didn’t know anything was missing, but then one day some people from an organization (perhaps a beautification organization) came and planted trees up and down my block. I was so excited because suddenly my block looked so pretty. That was over 25 years ago. Today those trees have grown big, strong and beautiful. Whenever I return home to visit I’m always struck with how pretty the street I grew up in looks because someone took the time to beautify our block with a little nature. When I was in college in upstate NY a group of friends took me to New Paltz to hike the Mohonk Preserve and climb their Labyrinth/Lemon Squeeze. Lemon Squeeze? What the heck is that? As a city girl I had never hiked in my life let alone climbed some mountain. I didn’t know what I was in for, but hiking the trail that led to the mountain and then scaling those rocks that just led you up and up I suddenly understood why people like to climb Mount Everest. What a thrill it was to test your own endurance and when I reached the top of that mountain and looked out at the beautiful view that overlooked the tops of trees I knew that a) I would return and do it again and b) I wanted more experiences like this. As the years have gone by I realize that climbing that mountain set me on a path to visit more natural parks and preserves. I sometimes feel more at peace in nature then I do anywhere else (except the library of course). Being in nature puts me in a state of Zen and that love of nature is something that I want to impart to my boys.
Last month the library was showcasing their new books and I came across Dr. Scott D. Sampson’s new book, How To Raise A Wild Child.
If the name sounds familiar to parents of little ones then it’s because he’s the paleontologist that appears after the PBS show Dinosaur Train. It’s a wonderful book about getting kids back into nature. Kids are staying indoors today at an alarming rate. They are not playing as much outside as my generation did and this is not a good thing. A lot of kids today are too wired to their screens or for one reason or another not going outside as much as they should. Researchers are finding that taking time from our hectic lives, slowing down and connecting our children with nature can help with depression, attention deficit disorder, obesity, resilience and self confidence. “How To Raise A Wild Child” at it’s core is about how to mentor our children in acquiring a love of nature and all that our beautiful planet has to offer. Being in nature allows children to play, explore, and discover. I find that when I take my kids hiking, afterwards they are actually better behaved at home and also play more creatively. They are calmer and sleep better. For nature enthusiasts that either have children or work with them the book will solidify what they have known all along, which is that having a better connection with nature helps not only our physical and mental health, but also helps restore in our children an authentic sense of awe and wonder that you don’t get from being indoors. As for me I still remember that sense of spiritual awe and gratitude I had standing on top of that mountain in Mohonk and I hope that I can instill in my boys a love of nature that will last a lifetime.
Here are a few pictures I took a few days ago while hiking with Oliver at our nearby Pinebush Preserve. He’s a trooper! He walked the first hour or so and although I had to carry him on and off after that I was amazed at how happy he is to be outside. He’s definitely a child that has A LOT of energy and he was actually the one to ask me over and over again to take him hiking. He’s not even three years old yet, but this is something he definitely likes to do.
It was a little challenging convincing him that we had to leave.