Here are six principles to consider:
(1) The goal is to develop a positive emotional connection with nature and develop baseline competency (safe, confident, curious).
(2) Children need time to play and discover in natural areas where many safe, self-constructed activities are possible.
(3) Give just enough supervision to keep children safe and found. Trust that they are innately capable of learning quickly through experience.
(4) Provide just enough structure to keep them engaged, especially at first until they find their own way.
(5) Emotional connection first. As with adult shinrin-yoku, this practice de-emphasizes giving factual information. Beware of "adultitis:" the irritating urge to explain the facts about everything.
(6) The role of the guide (parent, supervising adult) emphasizes listening and creating space for children to tell their stories. Stories are highly connective, help to anchor positive feelings, and help children with the learning process of "making sense" of what they have experienced.
Here is a "cheat sheet" of things to consider. What would you add or subtract from this list?
- Curiosity and inquiry
- Safety and competence
- Love and connectedness
- At home in nature
- Peer groups
- Identify and strengthen positive connections
- Emotional connection first, informational connection later
- Learning through discovery
- Combination of solo and group play
- Allow appropriate levels of risk taking
- Connective mentoring
- Intentionally designate 1 to 3 hours for children's nature time
- Safe place to play
- Forest, water, secret places
- Supervision at the right distance
- Orientation to place and setting physical boundaries
- Safety awareness without overhyping hazards
- Make agreements to stay safe and stay found
- Game or challenge to begin the day
- Connective mentoring as opportunity permits
- Sharing questions
- Giving just enough information
- “Peak fun” timing
- Food, water, sunscreen
- Story of the day
- Ending with gratitude
- Comprehensive tick check
- Wet and muddy
- Mild poison oak
- Seeing a snake
- Noticing tracks
- Crafting things from natural materials
- Building forts
- Collecting interesting objects
- Gathering and preparing food plants (acorns, bay nuts, etc.)
- Tending fire
- Discovering a dead animal or bones
- Encounters with wildlife
- Alone time
- Time with one or a few friends
- Climbing and scrambling
- Balancing on log
- Crawling under bushes
- Practicing bird calls
- Swimming and splashing
- Building a dam
- Not seeing an adult for an hour or more, and not noticing it
- Long hike, getting tired
- Domestic Animals
- Primitive Skills
- Birding / Bird Language
- Service projects
- Roaming in nature with friends\
I hope this helps! Leave your ideas in the comments.