Our Guides: Ten Influencers of “Let the Kid Guide” to Help Connect Kids to Nature

Ever since Margot and I began working on Let the Kid Guide we continually nod and reference a few authors over and over. We recognize that these writers, teachers and educators greatly influence our work in the world and help us connect kids to nature.  In conversations with friends and interactions with the children we work with, we are constantly reminded of the gifts that these “Guides” have given us helping us connect kids to each other and nature

In an effort to pay homage to our guides we want to offer you a current Top 10 list of influencers for the Let the Kid Guide philosophy. Have you read any of these? What else should be on this list? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

Sharing Nature with Children-Let The Kid Guide

Sharing Nature with Children: 20th Anniversary Edition by Joseph Cornell

Publisher: Dawn Publications, 1998

Perhaps one of the most beloved nature activity guides, a book that guided us early in our careers, is Joseph Cornell’s Sharing Nature with Children. “Sharing Nature” includes accessible activities for every occasion and have been field-tested, for four decades! Plan ahead to find the perfect match to your outdoor adventures, or just toss it into your bag–it’s a packable size. Grab and flip to any page to capture the perfect activity for any teachable moment. Forever fun. Forever relevant.


Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore, M.A.

Publisher: Hand-in-Hand Parenting 2016

Listen helps us understand our children’s emotional outbursts and ease the stress of parenting in these difficult moments. Wipfler and Schore assist parents to identify not only the children’s triggers, but also those of parents, and give practical tools for softening those triggers. The concept of “special time” we regularly incorporate into our practice; it allows parents and children to sink into their time together to cultivate a true sense of connectedness. Over and over we are drawn to these simple tools both with our own children and the students with whom we work in the field.



Last Child In the Woods-Let the Kid GuideLast Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2005, 2008

Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” and explains, “The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea: the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.” He backs his convictions with cutting-edge studies that link the plagues of the modern child – obesity, attention deficit disorder, and depression – with a lack of time outside. Louv’s work affirms what we’ve witnessed in the field and creates a sense of urgency that we feel as educators and parents to do the work we do in the world.


Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors by David Sobel

Publisher: Green Writers Press, 2017

A pioneer in place-based education, David Sobel MEd, was an early contributor and now authority on the movement. Many recent studies and research in neuroscience and psychology have recently caught up to his ideas. There is no substitute for hands-on experience, local projects, and nurturing a child’s innate sense of place in order to nurture his/her emotional health, increase engagement and performance in school, and cultivate active citizens. While participating in these types of projects, students learn essential core concepts across the disciplines, as well as critical problem-solving and social skills. In Sobel’s most recent book, Wild Play, we meet his family and through the lens of father and professor, he shares developmentally appropriate and tested ways to further connect children to their place. The place-based education movement is stronger for his decades-long commitment to and promotion of these studies and practices.



Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, Evan McGown

Publisher: Owlink Media Corporation 2008, 2010

An incredible storyteller and guide, Jon Young is one of the respected leaders of the wilderness awareness movement. Coyote Guide is a comprehensive resource for mentors, educators and parents who understand the importance and timeliness of awareness, belonging and connection with nature. This guide is chock full of activities, games, stories and inspiration, which ignite curiosity, playfulness and discovery. The games in this book have become favorites in our families and within the communities of students we teach.



Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D

Publisher: Ballatine Books, 2006

In her acclaimed book, Stanford University psychologist Dweck outlines why people succeed and how to foster success. Her work has popularized the use of terms fixed and growth mindset, empowering all of us to take control of our mindset in order to actualize our best selves. Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity, something we have used with our students as well as our own children. It has also challenged us to reflect on ourselves. In what situations do we exhibit a fixed mindset and in what situations do we exhibit a growth mindset? Why? What mindset do we want to model for our children? 



Tinkerlab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors by Rachelle Doorley

Publisher: Roost Books, 2014

Doorley, a classroom and museum educator with a Masters in Arts Education from Harvard, sets the stage for creativity by providing an “invitation:” ready materials, a dedicated space, and an emotionally safe space for her children to experiment, play and create with various materials. In addition to providing many great ideas for tinkering with your kids, this book makes us think of how we invite our kids and those we teach into a space, physical and mental, for exploration and learning. Doorley’s anecdotes, research and activities, support creative thinking, open-ended discovery, experimentation, process over product, and “a fail-forward mindset key for children and grown-ups alike!” We have brought the idea of tinkering into the field, into our road trips and into our kitchens. Let the tinkering begin!



Free Range Kids-Let the Kid GuideFree-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

Publisher: Jossey Bass a Wiley Imprint, 2009, 2010

We’ve all been in the grocery store, with a screaming kid, feeling like we’re being judged by everyone around us. Well, we haven’t been quite as vilified as “America’s worst mom,” who has raised confident and competent, self-reliant kids. A journalist who has extensively researched the data behind actual risks to our children versus the urban myths. (News flash: No kid has actually been poisoned by Halloween candy!) Skenazy encourages her kids to take calculated risks, when they are ready. Her meticulous research, approachable writing style and hilariously human stories, help affirm and support those muddling through the murky waters of parenting. Thank you, Lenore!



Simplicity Parenting-Let the Kid GuideSimplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, M.ED.

Publisher: Ballantine Books 2009

Internationally renowned family consultant, Kim John Payne, guides parents to reclaim childhood by taking practical steps to streamline home environment, establish rhythms, create breaks in the schedule and scale back media. His simple recommendations are a salve for the busier, faster life, which pressures many of us as well as our children. Payne helps us hone our home environments to facilitate meaningful connection with our children.



Byrd Baylor-Let the Kid GuideI’m in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor

Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1986

Arizona writer Byrd Baylor influenced our teaching styles from the beginning and continues to inspire our parenting adventures. Her stories highlight the deep connection between the land and its people. I’m in Charge of Celebrations, The Way to Start a Day, Everybody Needs a Rock, The Other Way to Listen, among others, share with the reader values reinforced by the natural world: the importance of simplicity, the web of connections and the delicate balance among all creatures, values we sometimes forget in our busy, often disconnected, lives.


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