I wanted to start by sharing that I used to absolutely hate reading. The only reading since I graduated high school were my had-to-read college textbooks and a pregnancy book when I was pregnant with Cambri.
I was inspired when talking to my friend, Maria (@MillenialFashionista). Our talks are in part what inspired my online training business. She mentioned a statistic that the average CEO reads 52 books a year! I was astounded and thought, hey if they read that much, I could at least read one a month! And so was born a new love of reading. I truly enjoy reading non-fiction books that help me to develop personally, as a parent, as a trainer, and an all-around better person. My hopes with my book reviews are to give a short and simple review. I can’t spill all the knowledge I read from my books, but I want to offer inspiration in helping you pick your next read!
So here is my first of many book reviews,
Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom.
I first read an article claiming that children should spend at least 4-6 hours a day of free play outdoors. For me, it feels like my entire childhood was spent outdoors, whether is was playing on our 16 acre farm, weeding the pumpkin fields, hunting turkeys with my grandparents, catching frogs and turtles in our pond, or just going for a run on those old dirt roads. While my childhood was pretty close to perfect, I did not realize the actual hard scientific evidence that supports that kind of play.
This article begged me to learn more, so I downloaded the audio version of Balanced and Barefoot on the Hoopla app, linked with my local library. Side note: I absolutely love audio books. As a busy mom, I can listen when I’m working out, driving on road trips, or even when I am out just running errands.
The first bombshell I learned was that we actually have more than just five senses. I mean, c’mon, this should probably have been learned in my Biomechanics class but I am sure I forgot. The Vestibular sense helps our bodies develop balance and movements and the Proprioception sense in simple terms is body awareness. Angela explores evidence in the case for outdoor play to include better muscle development and brain growth. Being outside builds confidence, encourages imagination and creativity, teaches responsibility, provides different stimulation, keeps kids moving, lets them think, and reduces stress and fatigue.
I was forced to evaluate myself as a parent. Think about the things we put our kids through. Starting at 18 months I had Cambri playing soccer. In itself, it was a great help for physical development and an opportunity to be around her peers, but it was an adult led class. In today’s American society, rarely do we offer our children the opportunity to play without direction, or without us hovering over them making sure they are using the slide the right way, encouraging them to share, and making sure they do not even touch another kid. While these things aren’t necessarily horrible, there is a lot children can learn from each other when given the true opportunity to just play with their peers. I mean, think about your own childhood. What are some of your favorite memories? Is it when you ran into the woods with your cousins making forts and staging battles against each other? Was it coming up with crazy games on the trampoline? Was it riding bikes with your sisters down to your best friends house? Kids find a certain sense of pride in being able to complete tasks and manage conflicts on their own. Less helicoptering, less structured activities, and more run and play with your friends. These are changes I have started making, and you can too. Another important idea that she drives home, is that as a society we think it is unsafe for kids to be outside on their own because of crime. The crime rates concerning child abduction by strangers have actually dropped since the 80s, and our fear is only fed by the ever-growing social media and over abundance of news sources.
Then I learned about Adventure Playgrounds. Angela mentions these and their benefits and it seriously blew my mind. She talks a lot about how playgrounds began in the war-era with simple, often junk-like equipment. In the eighties to early nineties, parents began worrying about playground safety. Cities began removing things like merry-go-rounds, seesaws and super high slides for fear of being sued by anyone who may get hurt on this type of equipment. Enter the modern day age of the playground with super safe, ultra colorful equipment that not only is an eye sore for kids, but becomes boring very fast. Adventure Playgrounds are very popular in Europe, and are starting to gain some traction with at least 9 big playgrounds here in the USA. By the way, I would love to spear head a non-profit here in Virginia Beach to build our own, if anyone would like to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Basically, the only rule is no parents allowed. The playground looks like a big fenced in junk yard. Kids play with boards, pipes, ropes, pallets, old broken down trucks, mud, creeks, trees, and old tires. To make things crazier, they are offered hammer, nails, saws, and in some playgrounds, even encouraged to make fire. The “yard” is managed by play workers, who are paid and trained to only step in when asked by the kids or in serious circumstances. The results are amazing. We find that kids come together a build, are allowed to freely destroy the junk if they want, and XXX. This works because kids are allowed to take risks, categorized into these six categories (Angela discusses each in depth if you want to read more): great heights, fast speed, harmful tools, dangerous elements, rough and tumble, and being alone. In taking risks, children learn strategies to manage a risky lifestyle and develop confidence along the way.
The average kid gets only a couple of minutes a day of unsupervised outdoor play, but we should strive to provide our kids with three hours daily.
Great, Good, or Ugly:
This is a must read for any parent, even down to a young toddler. GREAT!