We had a fantastic start to 2018! We spent it on camp with a group of lively children, outdoors, barefoot, building sandcastles in the sand, swimming and kayaking in the lake, building with loose parts, tree planting and horse riding. We saw our children in their most natural environment, out of the clinic space.
What struck me the most was how grounded and calm some of our busiest children were when offered opportunities for heavy work and free from rules and constant adult supervision. The children were free to climb trees and given space to resolve conflict that naturally arose from working together and sharing ideas as they built rafts together and bridges out of planks of wood and tyres. It was incredible to watch the older children interacting with younger children, practising leadership and nurturance and the younger children finding their voices.
In recent years, a new nature movement has emerged that advocates the benefits nature brings to children’s physical and mental health and their ability to learn and create. Paediatric Occupational Therapist, Angela Hanscom makes a passionate case that nature play is necessary for a truly balanced childhood. Angela illustrates that too many of todays children miss out on the full sensory richness offered beyond the walls of a classroom or home. Manageable risk and independent, imaginative play are essential not only to physical health but to the development of self directed, critical thinking young minds.
Whilst playing outdoors does not replace the need for Occupational Therapy treatment, it certainly is a component of prevention. Today we see playgrounds stunted by the rise of regulation and fear of injuries, screen time is taking over and there is increased emphasis on academic learning from a young age.
Teachers around our community are consistently reporting that not all students are equipped with the foundational skills critical to learning. These children appear, inattentive, fidgeting and easily upset. Their inability to sit upright for a sustained period of time is not necessarily due to behavioural issues, rather a body that has not been built in the early years through movement against gravity. Poor posture and decreased stamina is the new norm!
By allowing your child to play freely and independently in nature, extend the time, having fewer rules, incorporating loose parts such as wooden planks, rope ladders, tyres, logs, large rocks you can promote healthy sensory, motor and emotional development in your child. Let them get bored and moved beyond this to creativity.
Enjoy and let them free! It was one of my most favourite moments with SEED to date. I hope you love it as much as we did on camp!