About the Author

Martin LeBlanc is a leading voice in the movement to reconnect children and nature. For 10 years, Martin was with the Sierra Club, most recently as the National Youth and Outings Director, in which he introduced over 200,000 children to the outdoors and established non-traditional alliances with the military, educational groups and health organizations. He was recently appointed Senior Vice President at IslandWood. A founding Board Member of the Children & Nature Network, Martin now serves as an advisor to C&NN's Natural Leaders Initiative. Martin lives with his wife and young daughter in Seattle.

DAUGHTER NATURE: On Her Own Two Feet

The times I spent as a child with my parents in Olympic National Park and Green Lake, an urban park in Seattle, were defining moments in my life. So, when I was able to move back to Seattle and become a dad, I was eager to show my daughter, Amelie all of my favorite places.

It was a big moment in January, as I outlined in my last blog, when she first started to notice the landscapes around her.

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Well, I didn’t know what I was in for when we took a family hike at Franklin Falls near Snoqualmie Pass near Seattle. As I loaded her up in her backpack carrier, she asked if she could just hike.

I felt a sense of fear as I lifted Amelie out of my pack.I know I am supposed to be Mr. No-Child-Left-Inside, but my first reaction was to protect her!

Franklin Falls is a two-mile hike to a waterfall surrounded by Douglas Fir trees and mountain views. As Amelie skipped happily next to our dog Mocha, she grabbed her own personal walking stick. She was not only using her eyes, but she stopped to touch every fern. As she looked at them she asked “what are these bumps on the back?”

My fear soon vanished as I realized she was slowing us down in the best way possible. Amelie’s smile was infectious. I was so excited when we finally rounded the last turn and saw the 100-foot waterfall that is the signature of the trail.

However, instead of embracing the sound of the crashing water or the majesty of the waterfall, she ran toward me and grabbed my hand and said, “No Daddy it is too loud and scary,” I held her and explained that the crashing waterfall sound was beautiful, and that people hiked just to see the Falls. She looked at me quizzically and announced it was time to turn back.

The minute the waterfall was out of site, Amelie was back to having a smile on her face and taking in all the sights and sounds of the natural world.

We ended our trip by going down to the riverbed to throw rocks into the river. It was not the waterfall that made her want to continue, it was the unscripted moments that nature provides. The energy we all felt was palpable. But what surprised us was her independent confidence, her eagerness to stand on her own two feet.

This past summer, I summited Mount Rainier. As I was climbing I thought about how Amelie had appreciated the little things on her hike to Franklin Falls. I found myself focusing less on the destination and more on the journey.

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Watching Amelie embrace the natural world has been a gift, but I’ve been surprised to see how much our family has bonded via nature. In a fast-paced, over structured world, many families struggle to find moments to bond. This is not a plea to go find a national park and play as a family outside, but to find a park near you just to get outdoors.

A great way to find that time is to join or start a Family Nature Club, with the help of C&NN’s guide. This can help your family get the support and energy you need for quality time as a family.

For our my family, my hope is that the moments that we have spent outdoors continue to help Amelie discover even greater confidence, curiosity, and a sense of adventure. Time is our most precious resource. Remember to hit pause and enjoy.

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More Reading and Resources

C&NN Family Nature Clubs and Free Guide to Creating Your Own

Have You Already Created a Family Nature Club? Put Yourself on the Map Here

Amelie the Natural Explorer

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Comments (6)

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  1. Janice Swaisgood says:

    Thanks, Martin and Amelie, for this wonderful reminder to slow down and enjoy the beauty that nature has to offer. I remember when my boys were that age… seeing nature and the world through their eyes as if for the first time, just like you are now Martin. Your hopes will come true as Amelie grows in the natural world. What a wonderful gift you are giving her!

    And you are also right about family nature clubs! They can help break down many of the most common barriers to getting out with your kids and are so much fun! Seeing the little ones (now that my boys are a little older and faster) continually helps me to remember to slow down and cherish those magical moments.

    Anyone interested in knowing more about family nature clubs can easily contact me at: janice@childrenandnature.org for ideas, resources, and support!

  2. Beautiful Martin, thanks for sharing.
    What a gift it is to be a parent, and I love how nature can help give us ‘big people’ some perspective too as well as help our little ones grow and thrive in the world so beautifully!
    I imagine that’s it a race to see who can get out the door first in your home!

  3. brook hopper says:

    love this – I can’t wait until my daughter is able to explore a bit more… she’s almost crawling!

  4. Michelle says:

    Sweet story. I love that she didn’t love the waterfall, but that it didn’t matter in the least. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Boris Populoh says:

    … Lucky Girl! Great Read!

  6. Jennifer Kinch says:

    Thanks for this Martin, what a lovely adventure! So true about family nature clubs too! Here in South Carolina, we just had an outing with our club accompanied by local birders and it was precious. I was afraid that the children would just breeze through the trails and not have the patience required of birding but they were wonderful! Stopping every couple of feet they would tune their eyes to the tree tops and we ended up spending hours just observing. Amelie is a great reminder to allow us to slow down.

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