Balanced and Barefoot -The Importance of Unrestricted Outdoor Play.

I have just finished reading “Balanced and Barefoot” by Angela J Hanscom.  It is a book about “how unrestricted outdoor play makes for strong, confident, and capable children”.  I am a huge advocate of outdoor play for my trio (just in case you’ve never read the blog before).  Outdoor play in all weathers, at all times of the year, and in all locations.  So I was reading this book already believing in its message, but some of the facts and evidence thoroughly shocked me.  What we are doing (without realising it necessarily) to our children is not good at all 🙁

We all know that the combination of more parents working, less outdoor play at school (whether through curriculum pressure or as a sanction), the fear of stranger danger, and the introduction of more screen forms of play, are reducing the amount of time our little people spend in outdoor play mode.   However, it is not just about getting children outdoors and playing, it is about giving them the gift of unstructured outdoor play…no adult intervention, no adult scheduling, no adult rules, and no adult ideas 🙂  The outdoor play though invigorates them and makes them use all their senses.  They start to negotiate, do teamwork, overcome problems, and use creative thinking.  They learn to take risks and to manage risks.

There are a huge range of other benefits to outdoor play as well.  Our children’s posture is progressively getting worse, they fidget more, and they have a greater amount and range of emotional issues.  This book takes each problem and explains why it is happening, and then what we can do to help our children not needlessly go through these problems.  For example, I never knew that a child spinning in circles until it got so dizzy it fell over was so important for its development.  The physiological whys and wherefores though are written in the book in black and white.  Very plain for all to see that this, along with a lot of other play forms, need to be actively encouraged, and our adult sensible voices and priorities silenced.  The book also goes through the reasons why it is so important that this unstructured play takes place outside.  Unstructured indoor play is good, but there is no substitute when it comes to making sure children have opportunity for outdoor play every day.

I really recommend this book to read.  It is easy to read and written by a paediatric occupational therapist.  She explains in no uncertain terms (and very easily understood ones that are quite frightening to hear), why outdoor play is “vital for your child’s cognitive and physical development”.  The best bit is that she offers ways to help us go forward to rectify the mistakes us adults are making, that affect our children.

Balanced and Barefoot importance of unstructured outdoor play


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  1. This sounds like a great book, and I never knew about the spinning thing either. I’d love to see what she writes about that. I need to make sure I encourage more unstructured outdoor fun.

    • There is a lot in there that puts a child’s behaviour into perspective and the reasons behind it. It’s really good

  2. Sounds like a great book. I really need to get on board more with outdoor play and giving my girls more unstructured play x

  3. I am terrible with outdoor play but it is more because we are not familiar with the area yet and know where to go. We are hoping to explore more at the weekend.

    • It is hard moving to a new area. We went hiking every week to learn the island we had moved to in Sweden properly, and now we’ve just started extending this to the immediate surrounding areas 🙂

  4. Oh this sounds great! I’m looking forward to spending more time outdoors once the weather improves x

  5. This sounds great. We have a huge garden so need to make the most of playing outdoors. xo

  6. OOh i reallyneed to read this book to switch how we look at play for my son! Excited for spring! x

  7. Sonia this looks like a really great book. I always love reading books like this. I am a huge believer in children’s behaviour indicating any ‘problems’ they may be having. We are really lucky with the preschool and school our children attend. Archie’s preschool sessions are totally untrusted outdoor play which is lovely. Archie always comes home just wanting to continue playing outside. xx

  8. Couldn’t agree more with the book and it’s message. There are plenty of benefits for (kids and adults alike) being barefoot indoors as well.

    All benefits pertain to health, alignment (biomechanical) and cognitive abilities. I understand the underlying message of the book, but the title itself is a nugget of gold!

    Our feet tell us more about ourselves then we know!

    For those thinking of making the jump (to go barefoot), I’ve written a small illustrative guide on the same:

    I hope this helps!

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