I watch her eyes light up as she sees something that catches her attention. I can see the wild in her when she sees a river or hears the ocean. She becomes restless and has the need to explore it.

I’ve often wondered how I can nurture this wild child’s spirit. As a former teacher, foster parent, and current biological parent, I have been privy to the box children are often placed in with disregard to the key elements that make that child uniquely different from all the others. It breaks my heart to see children who yearn to explore and to have the freedom to ask questions to be stifled.

So I began asking myself what more I could do to nurture my own child’s inner wildness. And here’s how I do it:

Increase the amount of nature in day-to-day activities.

we actually had a veggie garden for the first time this year. While we’re not pros just yet (or even really good vegetable gardeners at that), we have spent every single day in the garden. I simply strap my daughter to my back and head out. She never complains, even in the heat. She watches everything I do and I can only imagine what she’s observing! In the evening, we sit on the porch and watch the sun go down. Again, she doesn’t complain, rather, this seems to really bring about the peace we long for at the end of each day.

Put down the electronics. 

I can’t say this enough. It’s easier said than done, yes – however, if you dedicate a certain amount of time outside every day anyways, leave the electronics inside for that duration.

Feed their curiosity with books.

I recently got a children’s book on the life cycle of seeds. It was beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoy reading it to my daughter! No matter what I’m reading out loud to her, she’s either watching the pages and putting the story together in her own way, or she’s romping around while listening.

Accompany them on their adventures.

Rather than send your kids out to play by themselves, which, no doubt, is still important when they’re under safe supervision, go with them and see what you all can get into together!

Remove traditional expectations for learning.

Not every child learns the same way. Not every child is going to respond well when sat down with flashcards and told to memorize all of them. As a matter of fact, just memorization is not the complete picture to learning! Learning requires, or demands, applying skills hands-on!

Listen more.

We often feel compelled to speak every time our children open up to us. But sometimes they’re not talking to us for a response. They genuinely want to share their thoughts and to know they’re being heard by you!

Avoid the temptation to compare your child to other children.

Not only can comparing your child to other children be damaging to them in nearly every capacity, it, at the very least, creates the perfect climate for them to begin comparing themselves to other children. Your child must be able to view themselves as the unique gift and individual that they are. In order for them to have the ability to positively self-reflect, they must be able to do so without the burden of comparison. 

Allow other healthy mentors in their lives.

It isn’t always easy to trust others to healthily and positively mentor our children – but we have to. One of the most important skills you can teach your child is social skills, and you can’t be the only one who teaches those. 

According to Philosophy Today, having a healthy, positive mentor role-model in your child’s life can:

  • Model necessary social skills
  • Offer guidance on how relationships outside of family are facilitated
  • Encourage children to manage the challenges that come intrinsically with relationships
  • Boost your child’s cognitive skills through meaningful conversations
  • And much, much more.

Don’t allow your fear to dampen their good time.

Yes, I’m speaking to myself as well. Parenting is so hard, and as much as those who’ve walked this path before us have tried their best (hopefully) to prepare us sufficiently, nothing really quite does until we’re parents. Some of us have dreamt of being parents for years, some just knew they would be one day, even if they never put any thought into it, some become parents by accident and learn to love it…whatever the case may be, parents are hard workers and we put so much care into our roles. The last thing we feel compelled to do is “let go.”

But we have to. We cannot allow our fears of the unknown to stifle how we raise our precious babies. Our children want to explore, and, above all, want to do so with your blessing. How can you give your blessing when you’re too afraid to let them go?

Keep sleep schedules.

When I was a foster mom, I made absolutely certain that my kids were always on a sleep schedule. They all slept 12 hours nights and took about two naps a day. Now that I have my own biological child, she also sleeps 12 hours a night. 

Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. 

“Broadly speaking, it might be argued that the most fundamental requirements for healthy growth and development in young children may include a) loving support and protection by parents/caretakers, b) adequate nutrition, and c) adequate sleep.” – Ronald E. Dahl, M.D.

A study found that short sleep patterns are associated with lower cognitive performance, especially at school. Further, short sleep patterns were associated with hyperactivity and the inability to sit still. 

In order to raise healthy children, especially healthy wild children, they must get their sleep, peacefully and uninterrupted. 

Feed their insatiable energy with a healthy diet.

Food, or fuel, for your child should be nutritious and healthy. In order for your child to grow physically and mentally into healthier humans, their diet must consist of the right balance of food. 

Include one family adventure a day.

What a fun adventure this could be! It could be literally anything you think of, but whatever it is, be sure to call it an “adventure.” Even if you’re just walking to the mailbox, stop along the way and ask your child what he/she sees. 

Do they see ants on the sidewalk? What are the ants carrying? Where are they going? Why this sidewalk of all sidewalks?

So many times our minds wander to what we have to do, to what is demanding of us at work, or what chores must get done. Or, with times as uncertain as they are, we’re distracted by the unknown and what’s to come. But one thing you can give your child and something you can accomplish as a family is enjoying each moment as its own unique and independent adventure. 

Follow the leader.

Finally, teach your child to be a leader by following him/her. 

“When children lead in play, they often gain a sense of purpose and can feel as though they have some direct control over their environment. Choosing activities and leading in play also promotes an important sense of leadership and positive feelings of self-worth for children.” – Kevin Zoromski

Above all else, it’s extremely important that you remember there is no set rules to which to abide, and no one there to stifle the imagination. Our children are the cornerstone and one day we’re going to depend on them to take care of us. So raise them in the way they shall go by raising a healthy wild child!