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.