Monthly Archives: June 2011

Courage Book Review – Taking a Walk with the Buddha

Becoming Buddha: The Story of SiddharthaToday’s courage book review offers two illustrated books for children of Jataka tales, tales the Buddha told, but to begin with, here’s a beautiful picture book biography to put the Jataka tales into context:  Becoming Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha, written by Whitney Stewart, with really really beautiful art by Sally Rippin, and with a foreword by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. In simple prose, the story describes the journey of Siddhartha from wealth and privilege to enlightenment.   The Jataka tales were the stories the Buddha told to his followers to help them on their own journeys.  Siddhartha’s journey was obviously one of spiritual courage, which we define as the courage which fortifies us as we ask questions about meaning and purpose.  His purpose was nothing less than to find the cause of human suffering.

Buddha Stories Buddha Stories is a quietly beautiful book written and illustrated by Demi.  The illustrations are gold on deep indigo, giving the stories the dazzle of illumination.  The stories themselves are full of illumination, being short and accessible and with clear purpose.  Compassion, faithfulness, self-control, modesty, honesty and humility are virtues activated by emotional courage, moral courage and social courage in these traditional stories.   They are all animal stories, and the pictures show monkeys and bulls and lions and parrots gleaming like constellations on the deep blue pages.   The first story, “The Lion King,” will be familiar to some readers as “Chicken Little.”  It is worth pointing this out to children, encouraging them to engage their intellectual courage to make bold observations about the connections between tales (for example, the Judgment of Solomon and the very similar Birbal story from India about a disputed mango tree which I offered last month). This sort of comparative literature study can inspire conversation with kids on the deep lessons about courage that dwell within all these stories.
I Once Was a Monkey: Stories Buddha ToldNext we have I Once Was a Monkey: Stories Buddha Told written and illustrated by Jeanne M. Lee.  A monkey, a tortoise, a jackal, a lion and a dove take refuge from a storm inside a ruined temple.  Also inside the temple is a statue of the seated Buddha, which speaks to them to calm their fears, telling stories of his past lives.  Six Jataka tales are framed by this device, each one flowing seamlessly into the next.  Again, these stories illustrate the virtues of compassion, wisdom, cooperation and loyalty that the six types of courage can activate in us all.   Great teachers, such as the Buddha, know that animals make great metaphors and stand-ins for communicating concepts to students, especially to children.  Aesop knew it too, of course.  All of these Jataka tales are easy to learn and retell in your own words.  Take the Buddha on a walk with you and your child some day soon, and let the Jataka tales guide you on your path. 

Hold Out Your Hand and Close Your Eyes!

Firstly, “Happy Father’s Day!” to all our readers who are dads. Here’s a great quote to start your day:

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” ~ Jim Valvano
Now for today’s post:

Further to the research in previous posts that I’ve shared about the importance of baby bonding, creating healthy attachment between parent and child, separation anxiety, and the development of object permanence—these games help build trust and playfulness into your everyday life with young children. 

Dr. Lisa’s Parenting Tip:
Play Peek-a-Boo and other Trust-Building Games!
The goal:  Reassuring your child that you are reliable, consistent, and that you always come back. 
Peek-a-Boo: You can play this game with infants to toddlers, and watch in amazement as their cognitive capacity for object permanence develops.  You can start with an object, a teddy, a ball, or something else familiar.  At around six months of age, begin to hide your own face, and quickly reappear after asking “Where’s Mommy?/Where’s Daddy?” Then say, “Here’s Mommy./Here’s Daddy!”  As your child approaches eight months, start using the moniker “Peek-a-Boo” as you reappear, “I see you!” and/or “I love you!” to reconnect.  Separation distress is normal for securely attached infants, your goal is to allow time-limited experience of separation anxiety, followed by the comfort and nervous system soothing provided by the return of a loving primary attachment figure—YOU!

Hide-and-Seek:  Once your child is mobile and more confident to be left alone for a moment, introduce “Let’s play Hide and Seek.” Hide yourself in an easily accessible place and call your child to come find you, delight in their ability to find you and the pleasure that comes from being reunited.  Then, teach your child to find a safe place to hide nearby and allowing for a few moments of suspense by counting to 10, go find them in their hiding place.  Again, celebrating their cleverness to hide, to disappear for a short time, to be found again, and delight in your reunion.  We have played a myriad array of hide-and-seek games in our family over the years including flashlights, secret nooks and crannies in the house, hidden-from-view places in tall grasses or high in the trees, favorite books to while away the waiting in secret hiding places for Mommy or Daddy to find them. They loved watching me look for them, bewildered, lost, calling out for hints about whether I was “hot” or “cold”—closer or father—from finding them.  They were reassured to see me on a loving quest to reunite myself with them. 

The Tickle Game: It’s impossible not to tickle a two year-old.  They are so full of wonderful reactions, giggles, and sensory pleasure.  As important as loving touch, teaching our children to say “No” or “Stop” and how to establish their own healthy boundaries is vital.  I started the tickle game based on the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” song, where the spider eventually lands as a tickly five-finger spider climbing down my child’s arm as the water spout.  They also got to be the spider starting on my head, working its way down to my most tickly bits of all, my toes.  You can have a great deal of fun playing with the physical sensations of tickling. But, make sure that your child learns to both say and honor the word “No”, “Stop”, or “Enough” when the tickle game is done.  Over time, as kids grow up, teaching them that their bodies are their own and that no one is allowed to tickle them without their and/or a parent’s permission is essential for their safety and security.  Eventually, our tickle game resulted in years of my super-mobile spidery fingers chasing my kids around the house, them screaming in both delight and fear at being chased, and all of us tumbling into a tickle pile when I managed to catch them.  My 10 year-old daughter surprised me during a sleep over with all her pals recently, to do the same with all of them!  Once again, as soon as anyone says “Stop”, the game was over, often to start again with kids’ pleas to “Chase us again!” 

I’ll Catch You When You Fall: Once the tumbling and living room gymnastics stage starts, variations of this trust game can be lots of fun with the proper pillows in place.  Obviously, falling and hoping your child will catch you is not how this game is played.  But siblings can join in together, if they are equally matched and capable.  Start with your child on his/her knees with a pillow behind.  Have your arms cradled under their arm pits and ask them to trust their body in your arms as they lean back to lie on the pillow with your arms as support.  Then, as they develop confidence and agility, eventually they can stand “as tall as a tree”, and you can give a gentle chop to their side, ask them to count to three, “1, 2, 3”, and call out “Timber” which is, obviously, your cue to show your amazing lumberjack skills and catch your falling child, a.k.a. “Little Tree”. 
See Jennifer’s post about going on trust walks in “Blindfold“.
Please post other games that you’ve found that build connection in your family.  Games which are safe, fun, easy to learn, and facilitate trust between parent and child.


I’ve been thinking about emotional courage, and the struggle we have, as parents, to encourage our kids to do things on their own.  Lisa has explained this beautifully in her posts about internal vs. external locus of control.   Ironically, although we want our children to learn to look within themselves when they want to accomplish something, one aspect of emotional courage is having the courage to ask for and accept help.  Yes,  we want to teach the kids is to discern the difference between needing help and not really needing help.  Much of the time, when K. asks for help, she doesn’t really need help, she just doesn’t want to put in the effort or she wants company or attention – she has some other need that isn’t really a need for assistance with the task at hand.
Leaving aside for the moment how we discover and answer what the true need actually is, I want to follow this idea of knowing when you really need help, and how you find the courage to ask for it in a successful way – especially when we have become proud of our ability to do things ourselves. Lisa has talked about this in her Push-Pull Factor.  I’ve tried to make a point of saying things along the lines of, “If I know you can manage it yourself I’d like you to give it a go. If it’s something you really can’t manage on your own I will help you. That is my job.” Or when she hands me something and says, “Will you hold this for me?” I will say, “Is there a reason you can’t put it down on the table we are standing at?” I’m trying to get her to notice for herself if she really needs my service at this particular moment or if it’s actually something else she wants.
            That being said, I also want her to know that she should not hesitate to ask me if she really does need help. My job is to be ready to respond quickly to an authentic need, especially if she hasn’t yet figured out that she does need help. It’s a bit like being a life guard, I suppose. There you sit by the pool, doing nothing at all but observing, until someone starts choking and flailing. That’s when you jump in, not before.

I’ve looked for stories that demonstrate asking for and accepting help, but before I get to those I want to mention a good story about when not to ask for help, and that’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf. In the first few months that K. was home from Ethiopia she had a couple of laughs at my expense by putting on a show of crying and sobbing to see if I would come running – which I did. I suppose it was important to her to know I was paying attention, but I had to nip that behavior in the bud. Calling 911 for a frivolous reason can land you in jail; a few tellings of TBWCW seemed to get us past that issue.

Anyway, as for stories about asking for or accepting help: a very common tale type from around the globe is the “animal helper tale,” and these stories frequently involve the hero accepting help from an animal whose capacity to help seems rather dubious – a mouse, a bird, a frog, etc. I found this one in the Usborne Book of Myths and Legends, and it’s from Africa, although I’m afraid I haven’t been able to track down where, exactly. Congo region is my closest guess. I have retold it in very condensed form; when you retell it, please go ahead and add details that you know will delight your child.  If you are unsure how to do this, please read my post on how to tell a story.

There is a village that the sun does not shine upon, because a neighboring chief down the river has stolen the sun. The people of this dark village miss the sun and wish they could have it back again, and a brave young man, Mokele, offers to find it and bring it back. As he begins to build himself a canoe for the journey, the wild animals come to him and ask to go along to help because they miss the sun, too; we have excellent hearing, say the wasps, I have good eyesight and can find things, says the turtle. A leopard comes, a bird of prey comes – eventually the canoe is filled with animals with hardly any room for Mokele, who has welcomed them all in a most gracious way on this mission. When they reach the neighboring village Mokele begins negotiating with the chief for a price to return the sun; this chief does not want to give up the sun, but is frightened by the leopard into agreeing to decide a price. When he goes off to consider how to get out of this promise, he tells his daughter to make a poisoned drink to give Mokele – but the wasps have flown behind and listened to that plot, and they warn Mokele. Meanwhile the other animals have begun searching for the sun, and the turtle finds the sun in a cave and pulls it out. The bird of prey flies the sun back up into the sky, the daughter falls in love with Mokele, and the young man and the young woman return with the animals to their village, where the sun is shining brightly for everyone again.

Returning the sun to the sky is a pretty big job, and I think that Mokele was wise to know he would need help. He showed courage and initiative to volunteer for the job, but he didn’t claim to be able to do it alone.

The Sky is Falling? Really?

It is the nature of children (and grown-ups) to tell stories. That’s a given. Stories act a social lubricant among kids, a currency of exchange, and as a way to share information about their lives and their relationship to the world – or information about how the world works. I know from personal experience that telling a story with an air of incontrovertible authority (my specialty almost since I gained the power of speech) or telling a story with emotional intensity can be very persuasive to the listener. Many listeners can be convinced of the truth of a story without ever pausing to ask questions, but if we don’t teach our kids to greet information with appropriate skepticism, we run the risk that they will grow up to follow rascals, demagogues and ignoramuses.  Intellectual courage allows us to question information, and social courage gives us the courage to resist using sensational information as a social currency or passport to attention.

I offer the cautionary tale of Chicken Little:
One day, Chicken Little was walking in the woods, when an acorn fell on her head, startling her out of her wits. “The sky is falling,” she shrieked, “I must tell the king!” And off she ran down the road.
Almost at once she met up with Henny Penny. “The sky is falling!” Chicken Little panted. “I’m off to tell the king!”
“Oh no!” gasped Henny Penny. “Oh dear!” And she started running along to spread the terrible news, too.
“The sky is falling!” they both screeched when they ran into Turkey Lurkey and Cocky Locky and Ducky Lucky. “We’re going to warn the king!”
Now all five birds were hightailing it down the road, sobbing and wailing about the end of the world, when whom should they meet but Foxy Loxy?
“What’s the problem, my friends?” asked Foxy Loxy with a look of great concern on his foxy red face. 
“You look positively terrified.”
Chicken Little paused to catch her breath. “We must find the king as soon as possible, because the sky is falling!”
Cunning Foxy Loxy nodded gravely. “How good and brave of you to warn him. Follow me, I know a short cut.”
“Oh, thank goodness!” they all exclaimed, and Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Turkey Lurkey, Ducky Lucky and Cocky Locky followed that fox right to his den, where his children were waiting for their dinner.
There is also a very old version of this story from India. This tale features a hare who is startled by a coconut thumping to the ground, and believes that the world is ending. He dashes off, warning every animal he sees about the imminent destruction of the earth until there is a positive stampede of terrified creatures. At last they meet the lion, who decides to get to the root of the story, and is able to calm everybody down when he shows the hare that it was only a coconut after all.
These days, we are beset by Chicken Littles and scared hares on all sides. It’s true that there is much to be alarmed by in the world today, but there is also a lot of hysterical fear-mongering. When I am told something scary I try to resist the temptation to panic. “Really?” I ask. “Really?” I’ll try to find out if it’s true and then panic! No, seriously, I’m not big on panic and I don’t believe everything I hear. This is definitely something I’m trying to model for my daughter. Our children need the intellectual courage to ask questions and have a healthy skepticism, to resist the momentum of the mob and find out to the best of their ability if the sky is really falling.  Learning to consider the source of a story can truly be a life-saver.
Beyond that, there is also the damage to consider when accepting and repeating stories about other people.  This is terrifyingly true among teenagers and with today’s gossip-enabling technology.  A rumor can burn through an entire community as fast as brushfire, with tragic consequences.  Questions such as “Were you there?” “Did you see that yourself?” “How do you know that’s true?” “Why are you sharing this story with me?” are questions children need to learn to use from a young age, so that they can be effective fire-breaks when rumors blaze past them in middle and high school. We parents can learn to use these questions ourselves, and let our kids see us look up to check if the sky is still where it belongs.

Courage Book Review – Take Courage from the Story

“Take courage from the story” is a Dakota proverb, written phonetically as Nee yeh chee yi yo.  This was shared with me by my good friend, Joseph Bruchac, one of the country’s most prolific authors and storytellers in the Native American tradition.  His own Abenaki heritage, and his close ties to the Native American clans of upstate New York (where we both live) and the whole United States, Canada and Mexico, have made him one of the premier interpreters of Native American and First Peoples stories in all of North America.  His many many books for children, teens, and adults have brought us countless legends, creation myths, trickster tales and hero stories. Many of these stories are traditionally told with the explicit goal of modeling and inspiring courage. 

So today, Lion’s Whiskers is happy to present a brief sampling of the Bruchac bookshelf.

begins with an introduction in which Bruchac says the following:  “Many of the stories I’ve been given are tales designed not only to help the boy find his way to full manhood but also to help the man remember the boy within himself… One of the reasons I have devoted so much of my own life to the understanding and the respectful retelling of traditional Native stories is my strong belief that now, more than ever, these tales have much to teach us — whether we are of Native ancestry of not.  Our own traditions can be made stronger only when we pay attention to and respect the traditions of people who are different from ourselves.”  The stories in this collection are arranged geographically into four quadrants, giving us a chance to observe regional difference in the Native American experience as well as an opportunity to see the universal elements.  They are all about boys and young men, but there’s no reason to think your daughter won’t enjoy them, too.
The Girl Who Helped Thunder and Other Native American Folktales (Folktales of the World)However, if she prefers stories featuring female protagonists, you might reach for The Girl Who Helped Thunder and Other Native American Folktales (Folktales of the World)  (co-authored with James Bruchac, one of Joseph Bruchac’s sons).  This collection divides the stories at an even finer geographic scale; each section begins with a one-page narrative introduction to the traditions of that region.  The creation myths, trickster tales and hero tales show us all six types of courage at work, at both the heroic and everyday level – and some stories show the lack of courage at work, too.  The vivid folk-art illustrations by Stefano Vitale have are beautiful and eye-catching.  Many of the stories, in addition to the title story, feature girls and women in heroic roles.
Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for ChildrenFinally, for a series of books that combines storytelling with hands-on activities, many of which might qualify as courage challenges for you or your child, is the “Keepers of the Earth” series of books written by Joseph Bruchac with ecologist, environmentalist, and nature educator,  Michael J. Caduto.  These books are:
These fascinating collections combine storytelling with exploration activities, leading parents, children and teachers into a deeper interaction with the natural world.  Physical courage, intellectual courage, moral courage, emotional courage, social courage and spiritual courage are all invoked, illustrated, and encouraged by these books.  Highly recommended. 
This is just the tip of the iceberg, as far as Joseph Bruchac’s books are concerned.  Take a walk past the folktales section of your public library; you will find the path along the Bruchac books a long one indeed.  Stop and pick any of them for a message from the ancestors. You’ll find yourself inspired.

What Goes Around, Comes Around!

My two favorite moral commandments as a parent are as follows:   As you point one finger at another, notice that three fingers are pointing back at you and Treat others as you would wish them to treat you.  Essentially, my own abbreviated versions of the Golden Rule which shows up in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sufism, and many others. I’m big on empathy (putting oneself in another’s shoes) and on walking my talk, as I’ve mentioned.  My kids ensure that I hold true to my word.  Integrity is, after all, matching our words with our actions; and moral courage is dependent on personal integrity.
A classic tale from my own family’s treasure trove of tales that illustrates my moral commandments in-action involves my son and a very pregnant me.   

(Not my pregnant belly, I was MUCH bigger!)
I was some 60+ lbs. heavier than I am today, belly-loaded with baby, rushing home with energetic E. when he was just about three.  We’d spent the afternoon at the park.  E. climbing the jungle gym, sliding through the loop de loop slides, spraying unknowing passersby with his finger-in-the-water-fountain trick, and me collapsed on a park bench a week before having baby number two.  We’d stayed too long and forgotten to use the facilities before our departure.  By the time we’d reached the corner near our house, E. was frantic.  Despite having pinched his penis for some five blocks, he was pleading “Mommy, Mommy I have to go pee NOW!”  “Okay, okay, we’re almost there!”

I waddled as fast as I could, rustling for my ever-elusive keys lost deep in my bag.  The more I fumbled for my keys, the more desperate the expressions on both our faces.  Just as I retrieved the keys and shoved them into the door, E. whispered “Sorry Mommy, I couldn’ wait.”  There stood E. in his own private pool on our front porch step, eyes wide and pleading with me for forgiveness.  Just as I reached down to get eye-to-eye, finger poised for pointing, the thought “How could he!?” begging to be the first words out of my mouth, too much pressure resulted and I, too, lost my bladder cool!  So there we were, a couple of pals in a pool of pee.  How could I judge him?  Just as I wanted to point my finger at him, three were pointing back at me!  How could I scold and shame him? Just as I crave others to be compassionate with me when I make a mistake or show I’m fallible.  My response?  “It’s okay sweetie, Mommy just peed too! I think we may have stayed too long at the park.  Next time, we’ll leave a little earlier, okay?” He giggled.  Nervously at first, hoping I would also find it hilarious.  Then, we both burst into laughter.  Thank God I had enough social courage to withstand the embarrassment and make my child’s well-being more important

I love how raising children awakens us to the responsibility and importance of our every action and choice in life.  One of my kids doesn’t want to share the last piece of mango, grabs it before the other has time to notice, the mango slips out of the greedy little fingers, flies into the air, and lands somewhere in the distance now buried in carpet fur. When this happened, my then-six year old son said, “Wow, Mom!  You’re right. Karma does sure happen fast!” 
It’s a gift when karma happens fast: we actually get to glimpse the ripple effect of our actions. It can sometimes take years to know how an unkind word, a forgotten birthday, some gossip passed along, money never repaid, or a vote not cast affects the lives of countless others.  Parenting is karma in-action.  It takes moral courage to walk, or waddle, our talk with our kids.    

Courage Tip of the Day

Tell your kids about a time you were scared; they don’t always realize that grown-ups feel fear, too. This helps to normalize fear as a part of life. Through story you can help teach them to listen to their fear as their own alarm system, (like Peter Parker’s aka Spiderman’s ‘Spidey sense’) and also how to overcome both real and imagined fears.

5-Minute Courage Workout: Thinking Outside the Box

Compiled and written by Lisa and Jennifer:

The younger the mind, the more flexible the thinking.  Studies from social psychology and education show that younger children are not yet inhibited by more conventional, rational problem-solving.  We could all learn to think outside the box a little more.  Your child can help lead the way outside!

Here’s a list of 5-Minute Courage Workouts by age range to improve intellectual flexibility.

 Grab Some Lion’s Whiskers Today!
  • Toddler: you’ll need to dig out some boxes from your basement or visit your local supermarket and ask for some.  Perhaps you even saved a giant box from a recent refrigerator or washing machine delivery?  Now, that would be great!  Place the box in the middle of the living room, stand back, and prepare to be amazed by how your toddler will explore what you think is “just a box.”  Your challenge is to not assume what they make of the box and simply observe.  Get down on the ground yourself, crawl around and follow their lead around the box. See how the box transforms in your own eyes. 
  • Preschooler: find several boxes that can nest inside each other, like a set of Russian nesting dolls.  Large paper boxes, tissue or cereal boxes, and delicate velvet ring boxes.  Lay out all the boxes for your preschooler and say “What do you think these boxes are for?” Then, ask your child “How would you like to arrange these boxes?”  Be prepared to be surprised by the ways he/she may see the boxes in relationship to one another.  Encourage your child to think for him/herself.  If they want to have direction with this task, you could say “There is no right or wrong way to put these boxes together.  I am really curious to see what you create all on your own.”  The way your child explores space and sees relationships between objects may cause you to look at spatial relationships in ways you haven’t in years. 
  • Early elementary student: find a dozen random objects from throughout your house (look for variety) and put them in a box on the dining room table.  Ask your child to sort them without explaining or suggesting what the categories might be.  If your child really craves guidance, just say “Take your best guess about at least one way these objects can be related or similar.”  Step back and resist the temptation to sort the objects for them.  See if you, too, can find more than one way to sort the objects into categories.  For example: color, shape, function, size, ownership.
  • Upper elementary student:  On your next drive or walk together, ask your child to imagine a world where there are no rules and that they didn’t care what other people thought about what they (your child) did.  Now ask them what is the first thing they would do?  Share with your child what you would do if you didn’t care what other people thought, and if you didn’t box yourself into certain ways of thinking, feeling or behaving. 
  • High schooler or teen: It’s time to rule the world.  Ask your teen what laws he or she would enact if put in charge of everything and everyone.  What kind of society would they like to create and what would it take to do that?  Dwell in possibility with them instead of immediately squashing idealistic proposals that you think would be difficult or unworkable or have dire unintended consequences.  Soon our teens will be our leaders; it’s best to give them time for creative brainstorming now!
For every problem there is a solution; it might just take thinking about the problem in a way you may not yet have considered.  Or asking a different question about the problem. This courage workout can help you and your child experiment with new ways of tackling problems.  Maybe doing this workout will bring some humor and hope to problems that get us all stuck at times.  Review the Six Types of Courage to figure out which types your child needs to complete this workout.

Here are some additional 5-Minute Courage Workouts: Navigating the Neighborhood, Playing With Fire, A Fate Worse Than Death, Home Alone, Saying I’m Sorry, Talking DirtyIt’s A Dog Eat Dog World

We’d love to hear about your results with one of these workouts, or share your own!

Warning! Caution! Dangerous Things!

“Playing with knives” and “playing with fire” sound dangerous, not surprisingly. If children are allowed to treat these things as toys they probably will get hurt. I wouldn’t let my daughter “play” with fire or “play” with a knife, but I certainly let her use them. After all, in the “olden days” children routinely used knives, and had lit candles in their bedrooms, and chopped kindling with hatchets and built fires in cook stoves and did all kinds of “dangerous” things. If we think of these things as tools rather than toys, we see them as part of a suite of skills to teach our kids, something around which we can build a courage challenge. Using these tools is not beyond the intellectual skill level or physical abilities of a child, like, for example, driving an 18-wheeler or playing a pipe organ is. If they were, then children in the “olden days” wouldn’t have been expected to do them.

I keep putting quote marks around “olden days” because of course children in the developing world still routinely do these jobs and use these tools. It is only in our “developed” culture that children are modernized out of these useful and meaningful skills. My daughter spent her first eight years in Ethiopia; on her arm is a scar from when she fell into a cooking fire. I’m by no means suggesting that all kids should learn the painful way how to be careful around a fire; but I would like to point out that the world is full of things that are potentially dangerous, and as parents we are responsible for giving our kids all the information they need to be safe, including knowing how to harness that danger for their use.

I think the old adage bears repeating: experience is the best teacher. Yet experience shouldn’t be the only teacher. Giving a child a knife and box of matches and a cheerful “go have fun, dear,” doesn’t sound like a very good plan. Children will experiment, however. If they don’t get any guidance from a parent (or a substitute, like a scout leader, for example) they will teach themselves on their own, and not always with happy results.

This doesn’t require becoming a homesteader or going camping in the deep woods. Every kitchen has knives, and helping cut food for a family meal offers a child a chance to contribute in a meaningful way. If there’s no fireplace or wood stove or outdoor fire pit, parents can find an opportunity to build a fire together somewhere safe. They can use real candles at home and let their child light them and then blow them out at the end of the meal. They can go to a bonfire. They can make building a fire in an appropriate place a courage challenge for their kids, standing aside and watching, and resisting the urge to take over.
It’s the parents who need courage for this, not the children. The kids want to learn how to use these tools. We must trust ourselves to teach them, and our kids to use them well.