Wednesday photo of the week: pondering

Vista Brook Park

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BOOK REVIEW: How to Raise a Wild Child, by Scott Sampson (and giveaway)

Last year I had the fortune of reading a draft of a forthcoming book about connecting children to nature. Geared toward mentors – be they parents, teachers, or other adults in a child’s life – this book captured for me a wonderfully blended mixture of nature experience how-tos, succinct overviews of relevant research about nature connection, and personal anecdotes about growing up with a love of nature and passing that on to the next generation. The author is none other than everyone’s favorite dinosaur expert, Dr. Scott Sampson of PBS Kids’ program Dinosaur Train. While a practicing paleontologist and museum administrator, Sampson also advocates for getting kids outside (and “making their own discoveries”) through the television program, through social media (FacebookTwitter, and Instagram), and now as Nature Rocks’ first Program Ambassador.


Scott Sampson, How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), 352 pp.

Publisher’s description American children spend four to seven minutes a day playing outdoors—90 percent less time than their parents did. Yet recent research indicates that experiences in nature are essential for healthy growth. Regular exposure to nature can help relieve stress, depression, and attention deficits. It can reduce bullying, combat illness, and boost academic scores. Most critical of all, abundant time in nature seems to yield long-term benefits in kids’ cognitive, emotional, and social development. Yet teachers, parents, and other caregivers lack a basic understanding of how to engender a meaningful, lasting connection between children and the natural world. How to Raise a Wild Child offers a timely and engaging antidote, showing how kids’ connection to nature changes as they mature. Distilling the latest research in multiple disciplines, Sampson reveals how adults can help kids fall in love with nature—enlisting technology as an ally, taking advantage of urban nature, and instilling a sense of place along the way.

There are many books on the topic of children and nature – do we really need another? I think so. In his introduction, Sampson lays out the goals of his book:

- to raise awareness about the disconnect between children and nature
– to explore the process of nature connection
– to help parents and educators become nature mentors

Through ten chapters Sampson does all this and provides a wealth of stories from his own life and folks across the country who are working to make nature part of the everyday lives of children. Sampson believes that “[m]any more kids need to experience a bootfull of pollywogs.” And I don’t think he means this in a literal sense. While not every kid will have the opportunity to put on some rubber boots and wade into a pond a little too deep so as to let the pond water full of metamorphosing frogs fill up the boots (Sampson did when he was a young child, with his mother and close to home), it is an experience like this – personal, triggering one’s senses, and perhaps a little dirty – that will leave an impression on a young child.

As a parent who gets his own two kids outside on a regular basis, trying to instill in my son and daughter a love for nature as much as I can, I know that How to Raise a Wild Child was not written for me. While I have a lot to learn about the natural world myself, it is the act of exploring in nature with a child, asking questions and seeking out answers, that makes a parent, educator, or other adult in a child’s life a successful mentor. This book is for those who wish to become mentors, or perhaps those who have never thought about doing so and just might come across Sampson’s book at a store or library (or even better, receive it as a gift).

In chapter 1, Sampson takes on the task of defining nature (wild vs. domestic vs. technological nature) and asking why humans need nature in their lives (what are its natural benefits?). He addresses the lack of nature connection in today’s youth, and describes how, in centuries and decades past, learning about “natural history” and perhaps even being a “naturalist” was part of everyday life for Americans. (As a student of history myself, I appreciated Sampson’s quick romp through the role of nature study in American history; see here for some books specifically on that topic.) He notes that while visiting large wilderness places (like national parks) are a great thing to do, more frequent visits to wild places closer to home will leave a deeper impact on kids. The chapter ends, as they all do, with a short list of “Nature Mentoring Tips,” ideas that prospective mentors can do with their children or students to foster nature connection.

Chapter 2 looks at the notion of place and living in proximity to nature. Sampson describes traits of humanity that allow for adaptability in different environments: large brains, prolonged childhoods, and ability to collaborate with others. Humans had to know nature in their environments in order to survive. This natural knowledge became ingrained in us as a species (and since lost in a majority of the species). But that connection remains, even if suppressed by modern distractions and responsibilities. Sampson shares his idea for a Topophilia Hypothesis – it proposes that “humans possess an innate bias to bond with local wildlife and landscape, inherited from our foraging forebears.” Again, he stresses that for the development of children, regular experiences in nature near home are more powerful than periodic trips to wilderness areas. And those experiences are often best when accompanied by an adult engaged in “playful, side-by-side exploration” and unstructured time outdoors with an understanding of big ideas about the world we live in.

Sampson describes how to be a nature mentor in chapter 3. I don’t want to share too much from this chapter, except that Sampson hits on something I’ve always known when out and about with my kids: mentors “are not the people with all the answers.” I am not a biologist, and although I have a strong passion about science and the natural world, I don’t know everything about what my kids and I see when we’re out exploring. And that’s okay. Asking questions and thinking of the big picture is more important, as well as knowing where to seek out the answers.

Chapters 4 and 5 address some of the big ideas that mentors should know about and be able to share with the children they are helping to connect to nature: ecology and evolution. Falling in love with nature depends on “felt encounters,” and Sampson wonders why, growing up in the northwest, learning about the water cycle never involved actually stepping outside of the classroom and feeling part of it. The best place to teach kids about the ecology of the natural world is in it, but Sampson notes that “public education in North America today is still geared toward control, obedience, and self-restraint much more than engagement, inspiration, and empowerment.” We are a part of nature, and connected in a variety of ways to the other life and physical environments around us, and teaching about nature should reflect this embedded relationship. He describes some ways that ecological topics are taught in engaging ways, such as forest kindergartens and school gardens. While ecology is about relationships, evolution provides the story – a multi-billion year narrative of the history of life on our planet, and where humans fit in the tree of life. Not only are we connected to nature through our actions toward it, but by sharing common ancestry with all the other organisms we share this planet with. Going even further, we are connected to the universe because, as Carl Sagan popularized, we are indeed “star stuff” – the atoms in our bodies were forged in stars billions of years ago. Sampson says, “Alongside the horizontal connections viewed through the temporal snapshot of ecology, evolution offers us vertical, transformational roots in deep time. Whereas ecology addresses how nature works at any given moment, evolution focuses on how nature came to be.”

About one-third of the book, chapters 6, 7, and 8, covers the differences in connecting different age children to nature – young children (2-6), middle childhood (6-11), and adolescents. Young children are natural born scientists, and play is learning. Open-ended play with loose parts that can be found outside fosters imagination and the use of the body. (Never underestimate the power of a stick for play!) And getting dirty outside actually benefits young children’s health in the long run. For kids in middle childhood, having a sense of independence and freedom in nearby nature, such as a neighborhood creek, is crucial. This is also the age where kids become overscheduled, overprotected, and over-screened, so it becomes difficult to provide kids with the time and freedom to explore on their own. A solution, says Sampson, is to plan for family time in the outdoors, but to allow some freedom on such outings for kids to take some risks. For adolescents, connecting to nature means connecting with peers on riskier and longer outings in nature – rites of passage. Also, volunteering in environmental projects are a great tool for this age group.

The topic of technology and nature is addressed in chapter 9. Since technologies will be everywhere – they are not going to disappear – mentors need to know how to best utilize technologies for nature connection. While learning is best when we engage with all of our senses, technologies minimize the number of senses used. So, a balance between technology and nature is needed. Smartphones can be used for geocaching, photography, natural history identification, citizen science projects, or using Google Sky Map to see what that planet showing in the evening sky is. All good things, but crucial to keep it to a minimum. The gadget is a tool, not the experience. Take a picture, look up a bird, then put the phone down. “The quintessential 21st Century digital naturalist may once again carry binoculars in her backpack,” says Sampson. “But the pen and notebook will be long gone, as will the guidebooks. In their place will be a single hand-held digital device with built-in phone, camera, video, magnifying glass, and various field guides, ranging from plants and animals to rocks and stars, making identifications a cinch.”

In his final chapter, Sampson discusses connecting to nature in urban environments. From seeding cities with native plants and putting nature back into schools to providing nature programs to the underserved and putting parks within an easy walk from peoples’ homes, the idea of rewilding cities is growing. And the folks behind such efforts will be nature mentors of all varieties.

Want to connect kids to nature, and not sure how to go about it? Picking up How to Raise a Wild Child is a great start. Read it under a tree. And take Sampson’ advice: “Get used to dirt.”

On Sampson’s new website for the book, you can find a list of 10 nature mentoring tips and details about a current photo contest. And finally, here’s a nice little video made to promote the book:

The giveaway:

To enter for a chance to win a copy of How to Raise a Wild Child (courtesy of the publisher), please comment on this post telling me about a favorite nature experience from your life. From the entries I will randomly pick a winner. The contest will be open until Monday, April 6, midnight PST. If you would like to enter without commenting on the blog, you can send me an email at darwinsbulldog AT gmail DOT com. Good luck!

Posted in books, ecology, education, evolution, nature rocks, parenting, scott sampson | 14 Comments

Monday thought of the week: more than enough

A thought:

Cultivating relationships with animals, both real and imagined, is one of the best ways to foster empathy during early childhood. Children want to run like deer, to slither along the ground like snakes, to be clever as a fox and quick like a bunny. There’s no need for endangered species here – there are more than enough common, everyday species to fill the lives of children.

- David Sobel, “Beyond Ecophobia,” Yes! Magazine (November 2, 1998)

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BOOK REVIEW: Spring nature book titles from Dawn Publications look at the water cycle, life in the mountains, and bird sounds

I’ve reviewed books from Dawn Publications (Facebook/Twitter/blog) before (see here). Their three new titles for spring are equally as informative, creative, and appealing as previous titles. This publisher produces wonderful books about nature for kids; they are entertaining, beautiful illustrated, and engaging, for kids and adults alike. And most important, they are full of accurate information about the animals and ecosystems they portray. These books do not focus on the Pacific Northwest, but I think kids should learn about plants, animals, and habitats from all over the world.

In Pitter and Patter (Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications, 2015, 32 pp.), Martha Sullivan and illustrator Cathy Morrison tell the tale of the water cycle through the journey of two water droplets, Pitter and Patter. While Pitter rains down onto an oak tree and travels through a stream, a river, and a wetland before ending up in the ocean, Patter lands in a meadow, seeps into soil, and makes his way into an cavernous stream, then a river before being swept out to sea. Friends who parted ways as they descended from the clouds meet up in the ocean and together take the journey back up into the sky. Along the way, Pitter and Patter meet all sorts of animals, from a squirrel and river otter to a turtle and squid. Concepts such as precipitation, watershed, and evaporation are taught in a fun way, with colorful and charming illustrations. And kids will have fun searching each page for Pitter and Patter are – some are more obvious than others. In the back of the book, educational resources about the water cycle are provided for teachers and parents, including a neat diagram of the water cycle featuring the habitats and animals from the story. Here are some sample pages (courtesy Dawn Publications) that will give you an idea of the text (click to enlarge):


In Over on a Mountain: Somewhere in the World (Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications, 2015, 32 pp.), Marianne Berkes continues with her “Over in the…” series (I shared about Over in the Forest and Over in the River previously, here and here). With lively cut paper illustrations by Jill Dubin, Over on a Mountain serves as an introduction to mountain ranges across the globe and the animals that call them home (mostly mammals). Ten ranges are covered, each page showing the range’s place on its continent. Following the classic rhythm “Over in the Meadow,” kids will eat with pandas in the Minshan Mtns. of China, sleep with wombats  in the Blue Mtns. of Australia, and pounce with mountain lions in the Rocky Mtns. of North America. They will learn what to call the young of the ten animals throughout the book, and as the eat, sleep, and pounce above indicates, some kind of animal behavior. And as expected with books from Dawn Publications, there is more detailed information about the animals and mountain ranges at the end of the book for parents and educators to use for learning opportunities. Here are some sample pages (courtesy Dawn Publications) that will give you an idea of the text (click to enlarge):


John Himmelman has followed up on his Noisy Bug Sing-Along (here) and Noisy Frog Sing-Along (here) with Noisy Bird Sing-Along (Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications, 2015, 32 pp.), which introduces us to a dozen different species of birds and the sounds they make. The text is minimal, but the enlarged font size of the spelled-out sounds calls for the readers to make some noise. Take a break from being a mammal and practice being a noisy bird! The last few pages give more detail about each species and offers tips for how to see birds. Additionally, a link is provided for a page on the Dawn Publications website where you can listen to audio files of the actual sounds shared in the book. Here are some sample pages (courtesy Dawn Publications) that will give you an idea of the text (click to enlarge):


As for most of their titles, Dawn Publication offers downloadable activities related to their books for classroom use. Find them here.

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Upcoming nature events in Portland

It’s time to register for summer camps!
Nature-based summer break camps in the Portland area

The Tillamook Forest Center is back open for the spring – check out their upcoming events

Hike series with the Forest Park Conservancy

Hike series with Portland branch of Hike It Baby

Hike series with Friends of the Columbia River Gorge

Hike series with Oregon Wild

Free Skills Series from Rewild Portland (every month)

November-June | Lunch with the Birds! | Hillsboro Parks & Recreation

Nov. 12-Aug. 29, 2015 | Exhibit: In the Footsteps of David Douglas | Washington County Museum

March 23-27 | Free kid admission (with adult admission) | Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum

March 24 | Book talk: Tim Palmer on Field Guide to Oregon Rivers | Tigard Public Library

March 26 | Family-Friendly Nature Hike: Eagle Creek to Lower Punchbowl Falls | Friends of the Columbia Gorge

March 28 | Nature Days in the Park: Lowami Hart Woods | THPRD

March 28 | Reptiles and Amphibians Workshop | Johnson Creek Watershed Council

March 28 | Classroom Discovery Days – Bird House Building | Friends of Tryon Creek

March 28 | Nature Walk: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge | Backyard Bird Shop

March 20 | Kids Nature Night Out: Care of Magical Creatures | Cooper Mountain Nature Park

April | Let’s G.O.! Play Serve Celebrate | Children & Nature Network

April 1 | Lecture: Oregon’s Rivers | Oregon Wildlife

April 3 | Kids Nature Night Out: Pirates’ Treasure | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

April 3 | Park After Dark: Coyotes | Cooper Mountain Nature Park

April 4 | Grand Opening Celebration | Nadaka Nature Park

April 4 | Nature Studies: Spring Plant Walk | Cooper Mountain Nature Park

April 4 | Women in Science Day (Girl Scout program) | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

April 8 | Native Plants of the Hoyt Arboretum | Hoyt Arboretum

April 9 | Brunch with the Birds | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

April 10 | Portland Arbor Day Festival – Bucket Truck Rides | Portland Parks & Recreation

April 11 | Portland Arbor Day Festival | Portland Parks & Recreation

April 11 | Critter Count | Columbia Spring

April 11-12 | Trillium Festival | Friends of Tryon Creek

April 12 | Nature Days in the Park: Greenway Park | THPRD

April 12 | Guided Refuge Walk – Birds, Nest, and Babies, Oh My! | Friends of the Refuge

April 17 | Kids Nature Night Out: Cat Prowl | Cooper Mountain Nature Park

April 18 | Bird Watching Discovery Hike | Forest Park Conservancy

April 18 | Storytime: Hannah Viano reads Arrow to Alaska: A Pacific Northwest Journey | Powell’s City of Books

April 18 | Nature Studies: Animal Tracking | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

April 18-25 | National Park Week | National Park Foundation

April 19 | Kids’ Nature Walk: Water Bugs at Whitaker Ponds | Backyard Bird Shop

April 19-25 | National Environmental Education Week | NEEF

April 22 | Earth Day | Earth Day Network

April 22 | Author event: Thor Hanson on The Triumph of Seeds | Audubon Society of Portland

April 23 | Book talk: Thor Hanson on The Triumph of Seeds | Powell’s on Hawthorne

April 24 | Arbor Day | Arbor Day Foundation

April 24 | Park After Dark: Sounds of the Night | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

April 25 | Earth Day Portland | Normandale Park

April 25 | Save the Frogs Day | Save the Frogs

April 25 | Salmonids + Macroinvertebrates at Jenne Butte Park | Johnson Creek Watershed Council

April 25 | Spring Blossoms | Hoyt Arboretum

April 26| Animal Camouflage at Mary S. Young Park | Backyard Bird Shop

April 30 | Bring Your Own Canoe Paddle | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

May | American Wetlands Month | EPA

May 1 | Kids Nature Night Out: Disappearing Act | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

May 2 | Kids Fishing Festival | Columbia Springs

May 2 | Park After Dark: Sounds of the Night | Cooper Mountain Nature Park

May 4-10 | National Wildflower Week | Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

May 9 | International Migratory Bird Day | Environment for the Americas

May 9 | Brownie Day: The Wonders of Water at Greenway Park | THPRD

May 10 | Nature Days in the Park: Roger Tilbury Memorial Park | THPRD

May 10 | Family Nature Walk at Elowah & Upper McCord Falls | Friends of the Columbia Gorge

May 10 | Guided Nature Walk | Friends of the Refuge

May 15 | Kids Nature Night Out: Treasure Hunt | Cooper Mountain Nature Park

May 16 | Kids to Parks Day | National Park Trust

May 16 | Grand Opening Celebration | Kʰunamokwst Park

May 16 | Children’s Nature Fair | Leach Botanical Garden

May 16 | Tualatin River Bird Festival | Friends of the Refuge

May 16 | Firsthand Oregon: Natuve Turtle Habitat Tour | Oregon Wildlife

May 16 | Winter Steelhead Release | Tillamook Forest Center

May 17 | Metro Annual Trails Fair | Metro/American Trails

May 17 | Nature Studies: Birds of Cooper Mountain | Cooper Mountain Nature Park

May 21 | Evening Canoe the Slough | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

May 23 | Damselflies + Dragonflies at Fairview Creek Headwaters | Johnson Creek Watershed Council

May 31 | Talk: Christine Colasurdo on 35 Years later: Mt. St. Helens eruption | Garden Home Community Library

June | Great Outdoors Month | American Recreation Coalition

June 6 | National Trails Day | American Hiking Society

June 6 | Family Nature Fest | Columbia Springs

June 13 | National Get Outdoors Day | GetOutdoorsUSA!

June 13 | 2015 National Get Outdoors Day | Fort Vancouver

June 15-21 | National Pollinator Week | Pollinator Partnership

June 27 | Great American Backyard Campout | NWF

July-August | Tall ship visits to ports in the Columbia River Gorge | Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain

August 14-16 | Return from the Burn – A Step Back in Time Event | Tillamook State Forest

August 18-22 | Paddle Oregon | Willamette Riverkeeper

September 20 | Sunday Trailways: Waterhouse Linear Park | THPRD

Oct. 10-Jan. 10, 2016 | Exhibit – Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection | Portland Art Museum

Regular nature outings (check websites for seasonal scheduling):
Nature Days in the Park and Nature Mobile from THPRD’s Natural Resources
Honeybee Hikes at Leach Botanical Garden
Story and Strolls and Guided Nature Walks at Tryon Creek State Park
Ladybug Nature Walks with Portland Parks & Recreation
Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
Bird Walks for adults and kids through Backyard Bird Shop
Free field trips with Audubon Society of Portland volunteers
Tadpole Tales with Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Farm Fridays at Zenger Farm
Second Saturdays at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, WA
Tillamook Tales at the Tillamook Forest Center

Did you know?
– $2 admission at OMSI the first Sunday of every month
– $3 admission at the World Forestry Center the first Wednesday of every month
– $4 admission at the Oregon Zoo the second Tuesday of every month
– FREE admission at the Portland Art Museum the fourth Friday of every month, 5-8pm
– FREE admission at the Portland Children’s Museum the first Friday of every month, 4-8pm
– FREE admission at the Oregon Historical Society & Museum every day for Multnomah County residents

*My friend Laura posts a monthly listing of kid and family-friendly events of natural, scientific, and cultural interest. March’s list is here.

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BOOK: For the Love of Rivers: A Scientist’s Journey

A new book from Oregon State University Press looks to be the perfect read for folks who love rivers:

Kurt D. Fausch, For the Love of Rivers: A Scientist’s Journey (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2015), 288 pp.

Publisher’s description In For the Love of Rivers, stream ecologist Kurt Fausch draws readers across the reflective surface of streams to view and ponder what is beneath, and how they work. While celebrating their beauty and mystery, he uses his many years of experience as a field biologist to explain the underlying science connecting these aquatic ecosystems to their streamside forests and the organisms found there—including humans. An authoritative and accessible look at the science of rivers and streams, For the Love of Rivers also ponders the larger questions of why rivers are important to humans, why it is in our nature to want to be near them, and what we can do now to ensure their future.

I particularly enjoyed this passage, from page 193:

These neighborhood streams can also contribute in essential ways to normal healthy development of our children. Who has not seen kids make small dams of rocks in their local creek, just to play and experience the water rushing over them?… Small streams are the closest aquatic environment where children can experience… life-enhancing benefits, be drawn to their sights and sounds, and wonder at the rich ecological connections and complex biodiversity of these accessible ecosystems. Most of us are not privileged to live on the shores of an ocean or a lake. But small streams or rivers are within walking distance of nearly every child, and if restores, their beauty and complexity ca rival that of any coral reed or tropical rainforest, right in our own backyards.

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Wednesday photo of the week: stump snack

Stump snack

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REVIEW: MyMayu rain and outdoor toddler boots


Manzanita Beach, Oregon coast

I was offered the chance to have my daughter try out a pair of toddler boots from the British Columbia-based company MyMayu. I had taken her out a few times in a pair of basic rubber boots but she seemed to struggle to walk and explore in them efficiently without losing her balance or stability. I then heard about MyMayu’s toddler boots. Simply put, this is their story:

A little boy without proper boots wanted to follow his big brother in the rain. Too many puddle jumping sessions had been cut short by face-plants in the water because of bulky, clunky rubber boots that were too big, too heavy and made him trip. There had to be a better boot, so we created one and MyMayu was born.

This sounded like something we needed to try! MyMayu describes their Muddy Munchkin rain and outdoor toddler boots in a variety of ways: waterproof, durable, collapsible, lightweight, flexible, seasonal, secure, functional, and fun. And after taking my daughter out on several outings with her purple and red boots (adorned with a gardening girl), they do indeed fit all these descriptions.


Playing at low tide, Manzanita Beach, Oregon coast


On a guided hike at Tryon Creek State Park, Portland, Oregon

What I like most about them is their flexibility. Unlike rigid rubber boots, MyMayu toddler boots are mostly a movable, waterproof, and breathable coated nylon that forms to a child’s movements. The only more solid part of the boot is the bottom around the foot, which is understadable. The other aspect which makes these boots unique is that you can seal the upper part closed tight with elastic above the ankle using a toggle and cord, so as to keep what’s inside – your toddler’s precious little feet and toes – as dry as can be. Another toggle and cord tightens around the ankle to help keep the boots from slipping off. Liners made from polyester fleece can also be purchased to provide some warmth.


Nature play area at Marshall Park, Portland, Oregon


Climbing to new heights at Tryon Creek State Park, Portland, Oregon

If there’s one downside that I’ve experienced, it’s that the boots are initially a little difficult to get on. It seems that there’s a little struggle to get my daughter’s foot down into the boot completely. I’ve had to have her jump in place to work her little feet down. But then again, don’t most rubber boots take a little effort to get on kids’ feet?


Running and splashing along Manzanita Beach, Oregon coast


Mushroom steps at Marshall Park, Portland, Oregon

We are so far enjoying these unique and practical boots on some of our Portland explorations this winter. It’s been a rather dry winter, so with a hopefully rainy spring approaching, we’ll have more opportunities to use them. But they are just as much for playing outside on non-rainy days, too.


Playing at low tide, Manzanita Beach, Oregon coast


Jumping at Marshall Park, Portland, Oregon

If you’re interested in getting a pair of North American-made MyMayu toddler boots for your child, check out all the different styles ($39.95-$48.95), as well as liners in 5 colors ($16.95). You can order some combinations together, too ($57.95). This spring, MyMayu will introduce Play boots (for all sorts of play activities) and Aqua boots (for older kids).

And here’s a blurry puddle jumpin’ photo!


Puddle jumpin’ at Tryon Creek State Park, Portland, Oregon

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Monday thought of the week: they’re not out there

A thought:

I think that one of the really sad things that’s happening with increased urbanization and the tremendous increase in human populations right across the Earth is that children are growing up out of contact with nature. They’re not out there, as I was as a child, with the grass and the trees, looking at little insects and things. I don’t really know what that does to the development of a child, but I’m quite sure it’s not mentally healthy. And I find it terribly sad, because I think children are losing their childhood.

- Jane Goodall, in the film Children and Nature: Awakening a Sense of Wonder (Foundation for Global Community, 1997, 26 minutes). You can view the film on Internet Archive, here. Goodall was just profiled in The New York Times, here.

goodall children nature film (1997 Foundation for Global Community)

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Nature play parks in and near Portland


Welcome to Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas! You’re here – probably – because you are participating in the PNW Nature Blog Scavenger Hunt organized by The Metropolitan Field Guide. Head over to that site to read the rules. Enjoy the search! There will be prizes…


Nature play parks in and near Portland

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For the last five weeks, my kids and I have been going to Camille Park in Beaverton so that 1) they can play, and 2) I can do an observational nature play survey. Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District sought volunteers to conduct weekly surveys of the district’s various nature play areas. We chose to do Camille Park, as my kids really enjoy the nature elements in the play area (logs for climbing on, a large sand pit, a boardwalk going through a grove of Oregon white oak trees, and much more). It’s also the closest of THPRD’s nature play areas to our home, as we live in SW Portland.

I’ve posted about nature play areas before. Actually, it was a guest post in the summer of 2013 by Michelle Mathis: Nature Play in the Portland area. In that post she highlighted some of the nature play areas in the Portland region, Camille Park included. Since then, a lot more has happened – nature play opportunities are really expanding, so much so that next month’s issue of Metro Parent magazine will have an article about nature play areas by yours truly (including a neat little map put together by the magazine’s graphic designer). But here I just wanted to share a few items of note:

– a new forested park will open this spring in Gresham. A long time coming, Nadaka Nature Park will provide a much-needed park for nearby residents. The playground will include nature play elements, such as a sand and water pump area, a play canoe, and much more. The Friends of Nadaka will hold a grand opening celebration here on Saturday, April 4 from 10am to noon.

– one of THPRD’s recent park developments, Roger Tilbury Memorial Park in the Cedar Mill neighborhood, has a nature play area where kids can build structures with branches and sticks. The district will hold a Nature Days in the Park event here on Sunday, May 10 from 11am to 3pm.


– this spring, Portland Parks and Recreation will open a brand new park in NE Portland that will have nature-based elements as part of its playground. The park’s name, Kʰunamokwst Park, means ‘together’ in the Chinook-wawa language. PP&R will hold a grand opening celebration on Saturday, May 16 from 11am to 3pm.

– last fall, Portland Parks and Recreation opened their nature play pilot project, a new playground at Westmoreland Park in SE Portland. This place is huge, and offers a sand and water play area, boulders, logs, and wooden structures for climbing, and fort building. The several times we have visited, the play area was absolutely packed. The redevelopment of the park included restoration of Crystal Springs Creek, where salmon have already been seen swimming up the creek which passes just next to the play area.

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– if you have not yet been to Outdoor Adventure at the Portland Children’s Museum (which I reviewed for Metro Parent last August), don’t forget that access to this very large nature-based play area is included in the museum’s monthly free nights (the first Friday of every month, 4-8pm).

– Katherine Logan published an article about Oregon nature play areas – Westmoreland Park in SE Portland, Outdoor Adventure at the Portland Children’s Museum, and the North Canyon Nature Play Area at Silver Falls State Park – in Landscape Architecture Magazine‘s March issue. Michelle Mathis has posted the article, “Go Wild, Oregon Child,” at her website Learning Landscapes Design, here.

– a natural area park in SW Portland recently received a brand new playground. While Marshall Park now has a very nice play structure (with mushroom steps!), Portland Parks and Recreation staff also put together a rock and log play area next to the playground that mimics a dry creek bed (Tryon Creek flows right next to the area).


Spring Garden Park in SW Portland, which now has a small nature play area, will be redeveloped in the near future and will include a larger nature play area.

If you know of any other recent developments in nature play in the Portland area, please let me know. In the meantime, get outside and play!

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