How to Raise a Wild Child


This book caught my eye last week. My first thought was how sad it is that we might need a book with the subtitle “The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature.” Then I saw that the author is Dr. Scott from the PBS TV show Dinosaur Train. He is my son’s hero. While I admire the man for being able to rattle off unpronounceable dinosaur names without stumbling over them, I especially like how he signs off after each Dinosaur Train episode: “Get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries.”

Sampson starts his book with an explanation of how he became a nature lover. I can relate to a lot of what he describes. When I was a child, during summer vacations, we were always outside. There were only two rules:

  1. Try not to break anything.
  2. Leave your dirty clothes by the washing machine.

Thinking about some of my “adventures” now, I am surprised that the worst that ever happened were a dislocated shoulder and one heart-stopping encounter with soldiers in camouflage who were in the middle of a training exercise.

The biggest moth we’ve found in our backyard so far.

Sampson goes on to summarize all the health benefits of being outside. Well, I don’t need to be convinced of that. I don’t need to look further than my own kids to see how much good comes from an afternoon spent outside. So I admit I was only flipping through the book until one thing caught my eye:

If we as adults don’t ensure that children appreciate nature, who will take care of our planet in the future?

Once I read this, I sat down and read the whole book word for word, cover to cover. I found a way of looking at nature that I completely agree with, but I also found a lot of good advice on how I can ensure that my children appreciate the outdoors. I can listen to them to find out what they are most interested in and support their interest. I can make a point of asking questions to foster their curiosity. And rather than dismissing things that I don’t know, I can try harder to learn and explore with my kids. And hopefully, this will help them become good stewards of our earth in the future.

Our most popular visitor last summer.

“The best place to fall in love with nature is wherever you happen to be.”

I am very lucky in that we have a good-sized backyard and don’t live far from state and national parks. It’s easy for us to get outside. But there are plenty of tips in this book for families who live in cities. It also addresses different age groups, because obviously, young children interact with nature (and adults) differently than teenagers. And because we live in the digital age, there is advice on how we can use electronics to encourage nature exploration.

We’re not sure how this one got into the kitchen…

“The capacity to fall in love with nature lies dormant within all of us.”

After reading this book, I feel very inspired to make sure my family gets “out there” now that the weather is nice. The American Trails website is a great starting point for finding outdoor activities. If you want a sneak peak at the book and get a few tips for how to be an effective mentor, check out the Raise a Wild Child website. Happy Earth Day!

They can’t sit still for more than 10 minutes, unless they are watching ants.


  1. What a great and uplifting review, thanks so much!
    I too will ‘ get out there’ and take a long ride on my bike today.
    We all need time away from books…preferably involving culture, fresh-air, good food and laughing.
    I wake up every morning to the cooing of a wood pigeon…she’s never late 0700 am.
    While in the shower I can see at the clouds thru a skylight and look forward to another day in this beautiful earth!

    • At the moment, we have crows and blue jays fighting in the trees every morning. It’s very noisy, and I would much prefer a wood pigeon. 🙂 You are right, there’s nothing like fresh air, good food, and laughter. All good-mood makers. Enjoy your bike ride!

  2. I love this! This book sounds great, and I love the photos you shared. If I ever have kids in the future, I will be very invested on their becoming avid readers, and becoming enthusiastic about wildlife and the great outdoors.

    • My photos are nothing compared to yours from the Galapagos! The fun thing about kids is that you get to explore some things all over again with them. And some are things we discover together. I love that part of being a mom!

  3. I love Dr. Scott the Paleontologist (more importantly, so do my kids)! Thanks for mentioning this book. We try to “get into nature” as much as possible.

  4. This is a perfect review post for Earth Day – Good timing! 🙂
    Your children look so sweet watching the ants. My kids used to do that whenever we found a spider in the house. They would all gather around, and we would have to keep telling my son not to touch.
    I feel lucky about where we live, as well. There are so many places to go that are close by. I find, though, that the older the kids get, the harder it is to get them out. Does the book have tips for older kids? Going camping a lot in the summer helps make up for lost time the rest of the year (we like to think so, anyway).
    It’s fun seeing your pictures!

    • My oldest used to touch every insect and then insist that legs or wings “just fell off.” Thankfully, she’s much more careful now. I can imagine that it gets harder and harder to get kids to go outside as they get older. But the book does have tips for parents of adolescents, and going camping was actually one of them. Helping them find a nature sport like hiking or skiing, looking for “wild” activities that they can do with their friends, slowly letting them discover independently, and rather than forcing them, trying to challenge them with something that combines their passion with the outdoors. And most of all, just continuing to be good role models, even if the kids don’t appreciate it as much as they should. 🙂

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