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Rewilding the American Child

How to restore kids' freedom, fire up their imaginations, and let them loose to play

Teach

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Children are much more likely to enjoy outdoor activities—and stick with them—if they start out at the right moment in their physical and cognitive development.

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At least not of the traditional, compulsory, watch-the-clock-until-the-bell-rings kind. As a growing movement of unschoolers believe, a steady diet of standardized testing and indoor inactivity is choking the creativity right out of our kids. The alternative: set 'em free.

Childhood used to come with rites of passage: your first fish, your first hunt, your first taste of outdoor risk. We need to rebuild the steps along the journey to adulthood.

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There’s a simple solution to the vexing challenge of getting teens to put down their phones: education

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And what I learned from an island camping trip with a bunch of disadvantaged youth

Play

What compels a couple to spend months at sea with their four young children? A burning desire to do something different.

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The best way to raise capable kids is to fuel their love of games—and stop forcing them to compete against each other

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As our writer cheered on his three-year-old at the Strider Cup in Texas—a merciless race replete with tears, anxiety, and elation—he had one question: Is intense competition good for the tiniest of competitors?

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Today’s kids are lonelier than any previous generation. What can help is a deep connection with animals both domestic and wild.

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When we truly let our children run free, the only guarantee is that they will surprise us

Grow

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A father learns to follow his firstborn’s lead

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When Daniel Duane was a kid, his father taught him how to climb in Yosemite. Two decades later, when his teenage daughter wanted a valley education of her own, he realized that the old beta no longer applied.

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When she was in college, Jack Kerouac’s book The Dharma Bums helped the author find her place in wilderness and in life. She hoped it would do the same for her 16-year-old son as they embarked on a mother-son California road trip retracing Kerouac’s adventures.

For more than a century, the Girl Scouts has been the most well-trod path for junior explorers to get into adventure. But what comes after the Thin Mints and craft badges is a troop for sisterhood, winter camping, and some serious archery.

The Editors

Whether our writers and editors were drawn to flower and tree, bird and creature, or sun and moon, the outdoors wowed them in ways that never let go