‘Wild Days’ is full of fun outdoor activities for kids
If you’re looking for a practical book that can teach your kids about nature in an engaging and hands-on way, you should pick up a copy of “Wild Days: Outdoor Play for Young Adventurers” by Richard Irvine (GMC Publications, 2021). This delightful book is packed with over 50 activities, games, projects and lessons on how to understand and interact more with nature.
The book is divided into three main sections: (1) crafting, (2) games and stories, and (3) exploration. The first is the biggest section and it features an impressive list of activities for kids of all ages. These range from very useful (like building a campfire and cooking on it, tasty recipes included), to fun (making reed boats and fairy houses), to artistic (DIY charcoal for drawing and carving stamps. on wood).
The games section opens with a great list of scavenger hunt ideas that will keep any kid occupied for hours. It offers group games and single player games, old school games and new ones. The exploration section focuses on nature-based skills such as bird watching, plant identification, cloud watching, bug hunting, and more.
What’s impressive about this book is how engaging each of the activities is. So many nature-based playbooks are hit and miss, with a few great ideas interspersed with a bunch of less interesting ones, but “Wild Days” held my attention and curiosity throughout the process.
Just when I thought Irvine couldn’t make another brilliant suggestion, he did. Whether it’s baking edible “ash cakes” or clay pearls in hot coals, cooking on a homemade rocket stove, sculpting a cute little hedgehog pencil holder, shaping a bow and arrows, learn night vision and follow nocturnal animals, he knows exactly what kids find fun. Perhaps this is not surprising: he has over 20 years of experience as an outdoor educator and is the author of a bestselling book, “Forest Craft”.
In an age where children are spending far too many hours indoors and in front of screens, it should be a top priority for parents and educators to maximize children’s outdoor play time. But sending them outside to play is not always enough; sometimes their exploration can benefit from a little more guidance and structure, and this is where this book comes in handy.
You can think of this book as a kind of natural science textbook, something you could turn to to supplement your child’s current education at home or online. Work your way through the activities, pick a few to make a family weekend away, or assign your child one each day if possible. If you were to do everything in this book, your child would no doubt walk away with tremendous confidence and knowledge of the outdoors.
I enjoyed Irvine’s emphasis on assembling the right tools to enhance the experience of nature, items like a carving knife, hand drill, pruning saw, natural fiber twine. and matches. He acknowledges parents’ fears about giving these items to children, but points out how it benefits them:
“To be safe in the world, young people must be allowed to take risks. If they grow up safe from potential dangers, it may be difficult for them to assess what is safe or dangerous for themselves and not learn to ask themselves whether … “questions that help us to consider the consequences of our actions and make good decisions.Some of the projects and ideas in this book involve dangers, such as fire, tools, and loss, but all can be undertaken without if safety advice is followed and common sense used. ”
These dangers are some of the elements of risky play that children need to develop optimally, and when presented to children in the form of these activities, it may be easier for parents to understand if this was happening in an unstructured way.
Irvine recognizes that children live in diverse contexts around the world, and not all may have access to state parks, wilderness areas, or water bodies. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy nature. “Every day can be a crazy day,” he writes. “Little bits of wilderness can be found everywhere, whether you live in a bustling city or its suburbs, or near farms, forests or the coast. There are adventures to be had in the parks, in the streets of the city, the towpaths of the canals, banks, beaches, woods, moors and walks in the countryside. It just takes a little curiosity and maybe a guide like this book. ”
As a parent who currently teaches three children at home in Ontario, Canada, I plan to incorporate these activities into my children’s lesson plans each day, starting immediately. Already they saw me read it and looked curiously over my shoulder, drawn to the beautiful photographs and wondering what the different things are. We all need more of the Wild Days in our lives, and this book can help make them a reality.