My parents are not hikers and have never purposefully slept in a tent. I recall a Cub Scout camp out many moons ago when my brother’s Pack went on a camping trip. My Dad borrowed a friend’s RV, and the four of us slept in bug free luxury steps away from the other boys and their Dads on the cold wet Virginia clay.

Despite their unfamiliarity with many “outdoor” activities, my parents always encouraged my twin and I, to go outside and play. Play anything. Swim. Explore. Kick. Throw. Swing. Climb. We were given the opportunity to learn anything we wanted from horse back riding to tennis, and allowed to chose which we liked the best.

I am not a parent, but as an Aunt and god-parent, I am allowed to love on and encourage a select number of small children. I have seen these beautiful children delight over bugs and animals, and squeal with the discovery of squash on a summer vine.

There is a reason we are encouraged in the New Testament to have faith like a child. Children get it. They realize that oceans and mountains and fire flies and stink bugs are awesome. They understand how wonderful cold water feels on parched summer skin. They know to be nice to kittens and puppies, and enjoy the occasional dog breath slurp (as seen here).

So if parents want to make a purposeful effort to develop and share a love and appreciate of the outdoors with their children, how should they go about it?

This past weekend I was in Titusville New Jersey, a small village on the Delaware river, between New York City and Philadelphia. My husband and I were in town to meet and visit our new baby niece, just 6 weeks old.

On Saturday morning, as I held swaddled baby watching her sleep, I found a book on her bookshelf which seemed misplaced. It didn’t have large pictures, it was not waterproof and there were no colored letters on the cover.

A NATURAL SENSE OF WONDER Connecting Kids With Nature Through the Seasons

A Natural Sense of Wonder, Connecting Kids with Nature through the Seasons by Radford University English Professor Rick Van Noy.

I began to read, and couldn’t put it down.

Rick Van Noy and his wife, both writers and actual parents of two precocious kids, gets it. They understand that it takes effort to turn the TV off and create alternative outdoor adventure. Rather than join the local pool, they spend time searching for a watering hole on the New River where the family can enjoy the cool kiss of river water, not chlorine.

I would recommend the book to anyone who has younger children in their lives – teachers, parents, uncles, camp counselors – everyone.

Get it – read it – and share your love of the outdoors, of sunrises and sunsets, of fall leaves and brightly colored birds, of summer rains and spring flowers, of hiking and swimming, with the next generation.

Although my precious niece is only 6 weeks old, her Uncle and I have already planned a few adventures for when she is older. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll chose the tent over the RV for her first girl scout camp out and let Aunt Lauren tag along.

For more about Rick’s book – visit his website.