David Sobel, Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2011), 231 pp.
When David Sobel’s children were toddlers, he set out to integrate a wide range of nature experiences into their family life, play, and storytelling. Blending his passion as a parent with his professional expertise, he created adventures tailored to their developmental stages: cultivating empathy with animals in early childhood, exploring the woods in middle childhood, and devising rites of passage in adolescence. This book is Sobel’s vivid and moving memoir of their journey and an inspiring guide for other parents who seek to help their children bond with the natural world. As we share this family’s experiences, we observe how wild play in nature hones a sense of wonder, provides healthy challenges, and nurtures Earth stewardship—and we share Sobel’s joy as his children, Eli and Tara, grow into earthbound, grounded young adults.
Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods identified the urgent problem of “nature deficit” in today’s children, sounding the alarm for parents, educators, and policy makers. Wild Play is a hopeful response, offering families myriad ways to blaze their own trails; it should become another classic in this field.
You can find several talks on YouTube of Sobel discussing children and nature: