child looking at water outdoors

One of the saddest things about childhood today is the cynicism. Too many children are trying to grow up too fast. Influenced by what they see on TV or on Youtube, they want to race through childhood, skip over it, straight to the teen years. What a shame. They are missing key years of wonder.

And while these children may spend hours learning about robotics or Teslas or World War II online, these children have lost a sense of wonder in the real world. We must desperately help them regain it. But how?

Think about how much time you have invested in classes— art, soccer, climbing, math. Now think of the time you have invested in letting your child explore the outdoors, not on a hike, not as part of an educational program.

Just to wonder.

Wondering requires you to leave any agendas or teaching points at home. Set aside the goals and checklists and just wait for nature. You’re on nature time now. Find a good spot. A tidal pool. A stand of trees. Aa small pond. An anthill. Places of initiation, as Robert Pyle calls them.

A ditch somewhere, or a creek, meadow, woodlot, or marsh. These are places of initiation, where the borders between ourselves and other creatures break down, where the earth gets under our nails and a sense of place gets under our skin. Everybody has a ditch, or ought to. For only the ditches and the field, the woods, the ravines can teach us to care enough for all the land. 

—Robert Michael Pyle, The Thunder Tree

Take some time do wonder though the activity center to find what works best for you and your family. Or come up with your own. Here a few ideas to get you started:

Studying a tree from root to leaf to shape of its top

“Seeing” a leaf for the first time, noticing its veins, color, and patterns

Catching fireflies and frogs

Exploring little creeks and ponds

Building stick forts

Creating fairy and gnome worlds

Nature Journaling

Sitting in your sit spot

Roaming through the woods

Exploring a tidal pool

Looking under rocks and logs

Bird watching