After working for a decade as a magazine and book editor, Kris Hirschmann embarked on a 20-year freelance career writing books for children and young adults. She is constantly inspired by her own children, who let her see the world through a child’s eyes every day. She lives just outside Orlando, Florida.
What made you want to write this book? Where did you draw your inspiration from?
When my youngest child was two years old and my oldest child was four, my then-husband and I decided that camping would be our family’s thing. We bought a small pop-up camper and struck out on a 10-year exploration of Florida’s parks. We spent so much time outdoors as a family and learned to really appreciate nature and wildlife in a way that I certainly had not, prior to that time. Nature was a huge part of my children’s upbringing and something I watched them enjoying immensely.
What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
Exploring nature is endlessly rewarding for children—I’ve seen it first hand with my own. I hope that readers will get a little bit of that sense of wonder and learn that exploring the wild can be just as fun—dare I say more fun?—than playing with electronics all day long!
How do you feel children can benefit from being in nature?
The benefits are endless. Outdoor time is active time and often unstructured time. Children are free to gravitate to whatever attracts them and pause to appreciate an icky worm, a sparkling spiderweb, or a starry night. There’s no question in my mind that being in nature boosts children’s connection with the world around them.
For those not living near natural wooded areas or have access to big backyards and trees, what sorts of things would you recommend in order that they, too, can explore nature?
Nature is everywhere, even in the hearts of the biggest cities. Weeds push up through cracks in sidewalks, squirrels cannot be discouraged no matter how much we might want them to be, the weather is always a factor… there’s always an opportunity for a safari of exploration. I think it’s rare, too, for children to be *completely* removed from natural areas. Parents may need to make a bit of effort to take their children to parks and other close-to-home options, but they are there.
Do you have a particular activity that you enjoy the most and why?
I love hiking through the woods. I’d say the very best thing, though, is enjoying a campfire at night. There’s nothing like a crackling fire in the dark woods, especially when the weather is chilly.
Gardening is a big part of nature. Can this book be used to encourage kids to garden?
Sure! Gardening involves growing plants, and that’s nature observation in action. I think a love for wild nature and cultivated nature go hand in hand.
Do you have any tips for parents or educators in how to motivate children to get started?
In my experience, success has come from starting my children young, providing them with opportunities to be outdoors in nature, and allowing them plenty of leeway to explore their surroundings. Helicopter parenting is not a good match with outdoor independence! In the educational environment, I’d say that hands-on learning is always better than book learning. My children’s elementary school, for example, had a student garden where classes could plant and tend things. Visits to the garden felt like recess, but were actually learning opportunities—a win for everyone!