Noticing vs. Knowing

ted mattison outdoors 1

What do you NOTICE over What do you KNOW

Relax parents, you’re off the hook. When you go outside with your kids you don’t need to know everything. In fact, you don’t need to know much of anything at all! Just where you parked the car, where you’re putting the keys and to look both ways when you cross the street.

I won’t bore you with the stats that say we all need to get outside more. I’ll just highlight that every piece of data says more outdoor time and less screen time is a good thing for you and your family. (Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, 2005) But we already know this without reading a book. We know it from our youth. From our observations of our kids. And from the way we feel when we get back from an adventure.

And I’m not talking about getting back from a 10 hour hike up Half-Dome. I’m talking about returning from a quick walk around the park. An hour-long adventure around the little loop trail at the nearby nature center. A meandering wander along the river, ditch, stream, knoll, tree-lined-whatever that’s within minutes of your home. (It’s there I swear, more on that in another post.)

ted mattison outdoors 2

You and your loved ones will feel better because in that little gulley or mud puddle is something cool. You know, like an insect or a squirrel or a weird looking plant. And your one job as the parent is to NOTICE IT. You don’t have to KNOW the name, species or bio zone habits.

Just ask questions or make open-ended comments.

“Hmmmmm….” Or “What do you notice about that um…er…bush?”
“That’s a tree, dad.”
“Yeah?”
“We’re studying the difference between trees and bushes in school.”
“Cool.”
Then follow that with, “So, what do you notice about that tree?”

And then take your hands off the information steering wheel and let your kid do her thing! “It’s kinda gooey.” “It’s taller than me.” “It looks like a dragon.” All perfect answers. No matter the response it’s a way in for both of you. A way to talk and immerse more in the great outdoors. In other words, developing our wonder muscles.

Just ask questions or make open-ended comments. And then take your hands off the information steering wheel and let your kid do her thing!

We’re too accustomed to needing to know everything immediately all the time. And we’re modeling that for our children. We Google and Wiki and send desperate texts too much. This leaves nothing unknown. Nothing to wonder about.

So put on your “Let’s go see see what we notice” hats and enjoy the walk down the trail with a little less pressure and a lot more wonder.

Ted Mattison

Ted Mattison

Ted Mattison is the founder of Ranger Ted, an outdoor guiding and educational company. He is the author of the blog and upcoming book, The Power of Wonder, An Adventure Memoir. Ted is a certified California naturalist, trained in wilderness first aid and is committed to sharing wonder and the great outdoors with people of all ages and abilities.

Originally from Minneapolis and a graduate of Oberlin College, Ted has been a working actor, writer, director, producer, and teacher in Los Angeles for 24 years. As an actor he has appeared in over 90 commercials and scores of television shows including most recently: American Horror Story, Lady Dynamite, Bosch, and Criminal Minds. He is the co-director, producer, and subject of the documentary film about Burning Man, Nothing Without You, winner for Best Documentary, Malibu Film Festival.

He’s canoed, kayaked, backpacked, camped and explored the great outdoors from Minnesota to Alaska to the Cascades and the Sierras. He lives in Huntington Beach with his wife and two young daughters.

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