Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Review: Let Them Be Eaten by Bears

Never the off-the-chart outdoors person, I gravitate towards books of the how to enjoy the outdoors genre. This is especially strong when it comes to getting my kids outside.  For some this may be easy, for me it requires research and planning.  Add to the mix a husband who does not like bugs and three of the four of us (myself and the kids) suffering from seasonal allergies, and getting outside is not simple.

And so there you have a recent book title I've just finished, Let Them Be Eaten by Bears: A fearless guide to  taking our kids into the great outdoors, by Peter Brown Hoffmeister.  All the more fitting, I read it while we vacationed in Bayfield, Wisconsin, home to the black bear (one island is currently closed to camping due to black bear activity).

My hopes for the book were high.  Approaching ages 5 and 3, getting the kids outside requires more than a blanket, a bucket and shovel.  Creative play, high jumps and a Gervasi form of Dodgeball now factor into outside play.  My Goodreads review of the book was 4 stars, primarily because the author promotes a concept car approach to enjoying nature with kids.  I love the idea of a nature walk, but snowshoeing to an outdoor winter camp, and then camping?  Well that is not likely to happen. Sounds magical, but is not practical.

Each chapter did end with more easy to embrace activities, but I felt there could be more middle ground offerings.  And a bit less emphasis on camping -- one can enjoy nature without having to sleep in it.  My overall opinion of the book is quite high given one very powerful quote, coined by his wife -- "perfect is not fun".  Stop trying for a Hallmark moment.  It will rain.  Kids will scrap a knee.  Bugs bite.  The heat will be sweltering at times.  It is not a perfect day you are after, but a day outside.  And as they say at the Madison Waldorf School -- there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

If little ones have a place in your life, and you need ideas on how to get them outdoors, give the book a try.  I'll close with my personal favorite ways to spend time in the fresh air with the kids:

  • find a beach, give them spoons and buckets and them them from April to November here in Madison;
  • give the child a small nature notebook and have them or help them draw pictures of what they see on nature walks (record colors, animals, sounds).  Then revisit in a different season and compare notes;
  • read on a blanket under a tree;
  • picnic at the park;
  • nature walk in your neighborhood;
  • create a nature basket for the kids to collect items from the walk;
  • plants flowers;
  • plant vegetable plants (let the kids play in the dirt); and
  • do a trash pick-up in your park.

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