That Agape Family

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Tag: forest playgroup

The Wrong Weather

It was a wet, muddy mess in the forest a couple of weeks ago. As we were leaving, a gentleman passed us and commented, “I guess you chose the wrong weather, eh?” His comment was in reference to Sweet Pea’s muddy appearance:

Wrong Weather

I assure you, the back was just as muddy. We knew going down that we weren’t going to come back clean. The girls know that when we go to the forest, they need to wear their “forest clothes” (our version of play clothes, those that have been worn down to the forest once or twice before, and now have holes or stains from all our fun). We play hard, and that’s OK! Actually, we encourage it. They’re only small once, right?

I’ve often heard (from my good forest friend, Anya) there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, and it’s true! We try to get out in all types of weather, which means we dress for the weather in layers, or a rain suit (or both!), so that we can keep having fun for as long as possible. Kids love to jump in muddy puddles, and who are we to deny them this childhood right of passage?

Wrong Weather 2

When we went down to the forest one time, and found this beautiful root system from a fallen tree, we had to explore! And you can too, as long as you’re prepared (or have a really good laundry detergent…). Also, always have a change of clothes ready, because no matter how many times you warn them of a messy area, they will be drawn to it with a seemingly magnetic force.

Wrong Weather 3

I want to encourage you to let kids be kids. In this root photo, Little Miss found some beautiful clay that she moulded into tea cups with a friend and her mom. There’s always something to find in the outdoors!

Full disclosure: Little Miss is not wearing a Muddy Buddy in these photos. We were able to snag a rain suit when Sears was liquidating. However, it’s the same concept, and great to have on hand for rainy/muddy days.

Blessings!

Liz

 

Balanced and Barefoot

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.

Little Miss (4.5 years) and Sweet Pea (16 months)

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.

Blessings,

Liz

How often do you get back to nature?

Swing Low

You’ve read about our beloved experiences with our Forest Playgroup before, and here we go again.

This week, rope swings were of interest. A couple of weeks ago, one of our most adventurous forest friends tied a rope to a fallen tree, and made a rope swing which he thoroughly enjoyed. He learned to tie the appropriate knot, and got to swinging!

Well, since that time, Little Miss had had the opportunity to try out the rope swing at gymnastics. Naturally, she wanted to extend that experience to the forest, so I tied this rope to the tree, and away she went.

Rope Swing

Why is swinging important? Angela Hanscom has this to say in her book, Balanced and Barefoot, “in order to hold on to the rope swing, children must have a strong core, upper body and grip” (Hanscom, 2016), which the majority of children today are lacking.

Now, take a look back at that picture, and do you notice a string on Little Miss’ right side? The one with the stick tied to it? Well, our forest friend, after tying, and trying, his own knot (he forgot the one he learned a couple of weeks back), tied this stick onto his swing, to create a seat for himself. He did this all on his own – and he’s 5!

It is so exciting to watch these children learn together, encourage one another, and have fun. I went back to the head gymnastics coach last week, and told her that at first I thought the rope swing was just for fun. Then I learned that this is an essential part of developing a child’s core strength. Fun and developmentally necessary… who would have thought?

Blessings!

Liz

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