I've been excited for the release of I Love Dirt! by Jennifer Ward since hearing about it this winter. When I heard it was illustrated by the lovely and talented Susie Ghahremani, with a forward by Richard Louv, well, then I was really excited. The book arrived last month, newly released, and has lived up to my expectations of it. Perfectly open-ended, positive and gentle, the book is a compilation of 52 projects to 'do' with children in nature. The projects are arranged seasonally (love that), and cover topics from birds to leaves to sun and sky and wind and rain and everywhere in between. The projects are general and open ended, but each contain a "Help Me Understand" section that has more detailed info should you want to get a bit more specific.
What I love most of all about this book, though, is its simplicity. Because there are any number of books on craft projects with natural materials, or actual experiments you do in nature, with specific structured projects and such. I have a lot of them on my shelves, and sometimes they are quite perfect for what we need. But you know, for the most part - there they are, on my shelves; and then, there WE are - out in the woods. What I love about I Love Dirt! is that I can read a project, and it's just unique and simple enough that I actually remember it (Though, it's also a neat portable size, too if you wanted to carry it). So the next time we're out on the trail, or we're in the backyard, and I sense a need or a want for something different to do, something to get us started, the ideas I've read about come to mind. I've found this happening so many times since opening this book. Our favorite so far? "Try to build a birds nest, using materials around you in nature." What an amazing experiment in versatility, but even more - what way to marvel at just how difficult and truly awesome it is that birds do this. And a good example of how the projects are meaningful - they're not just projects, they're experiences.
I don't think kids need a lot of 'instruction' outdoors - really what they need is to just 'be' there. Based on what I've read in this book, I think Jennifer Ward would agree. But sometimes, a little direction, a little incenctive for the parent, another reason to head out, or a little stretching beyond what we normally do is really fun, engaging, and a wonderful way to connect with each other, ourselves - and the earth around us.
Shambhala Publications/Trumpeter Books has kindly donated a copy of I Love Dirt! for a giveaway here. I'll use the random number generator to draw the winner, and announce it at the bottom of this post by Friday, 8am EST. So if you're interested, please leave a comment here. And because I would love to hear it, (and to make you work a little bit harder for a free book!), tell me something you love to do outdoors with children, or loved to do outdoors as a child yourself!
Yay!! Trumpter Books has given us a second book for the giveaway, so the TWO lucky winners are Sandy and Julie. Congratulations!!