Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors

A trailblazing environmental educator raised his children in the heart of nature. His story shows other parents how they can counter today’s pervasive “nature deficit.”

When David Sobel’s children, Tara and Eli, 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 child- hood, exploring the woods in middle childhood, and devising rites of passage in adolescence.

Wild Play is Sobel’s vivid and moving memoir of their journey and an inspiring guide for all parents who seek to help their children bond with the natural world. Through this family’s experiences, we observe how free play in nature hones a sense of wonder, provides healthy challenges, and nurtures earth stewardship. “Parents need to support kids’ access to independent outdoor play,” says Sobel. “Of course they should use judgment, but the benefits outweigh the risks.”

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.

About the Author

David Sobel with friends. Photograph by Eamon Ward

David Sobel, senior faculty in the Education Department of Antioch University New England, consults and speaks widely on environmental education. He is the author of six previous books and more than sixty articles focused on children and nature for publications including OrionEncounterSierra, and Sanctuary. He lives in Guilford, Vermont.