I started reading Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom nearly a year ago, and I couldn’t put it down. It really spoke to my intuition that my children need to be outside. That the outdoors is an essential part of their development, and that I needed to be mindful of getting outside on a regular basis. And not only getting outside, but allowing them to explore with their whole body, mind, and soul.
I borrowed a copy from our local library, and devoured it quickly. In fact, Hanscom’s Timbernook forest play program was the inspiration behind a local forest free play group that I initiated after being a part of an established Forest school group, here in Toronto. If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll have seen many of our forest experiences that I’ve shared. I treasure our time in the Great Outdoors. It is calming, invigorating, energizing, balancing, and grounding.
The main focus of Hanscom’s book is that children NEED to be outdoors to develop appropriately, physically and psychologically. She noted that children today lack simple coordination skills because they aren’t given the opportunity to develop them. Simple things like walking on an uneven surface, rolling down a hill, and balancing on a log – things we enjoyed as children – are deemed “too risky” nowadays, depriving children of the opportunity to develop physiologically. The impact this has later on in life is remarkable. Did you know that children have started falling out of their chairs, while simply sitting in them, because they haven’t developed their core balance when they were younger? Children are more accident prone now than ever!
When children aren’t given the opportunity to “get messy and make mistakes” (thank you Miss Frizzle, of the Magic School Bus), they lack resilience later on. While we think we are protecting our children when they’re younger, we are actually putting up barriers for them later on in life.
The other component of Timbernook, and the reason I started a spin off group, was the idea of imaginative play. At Timbernook, the students are given the freedom to become pirates, astronauts, knights, and explorers. The only thing we bring to the forest is a bag of simple water toys. I have seen the children make a “hot tub”, bow and arrows, castles, etc. When given time and freedom, children’s imaginations will blossom. and fun will ensue. We try to be as hands off as possible, allowing the children to understand their own limitations, and establish their own risk assessment. We also span a wide age range of 1 to 7 years.
I was truly inspired by Balanced and Barefoot. I highly recommend it to all parents and educators as an encouragement to make getting outside a priority. Our children will be better off for it.
How often do you get back to nature?