Saturday, July 1, 2017

Barefoot and Balanced Review

Image from Netgalley 
Description from Netgalley
Today's kids have adopted sedentary lifestyles filled with television, video games, and computer screens. But more and more, studies show that children need “rough and tumble” outdoor play in order to develop their sensory, motor, and executive functions. Disturbingly, a lack of movement has been shown to lead to a number of health and cognitive difficulties, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), emotion regulation and sensory processing issues, and aggressiveness at school recess break. So, how can you ensure your child is fully engaging their body, mind, and all of their senses?

Using the same philosophy that lies at the heart of her popular TimberNook program—that nature is the ultimate sensory experience, and that psychological and physical health improves for children when they spend time outside on a regular basis—author Angela Hanscom offers several strategies to help your child thrive, even if you live in an urban environment.

Today it is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, or spinning in circles just for fun. We've taken away merry-go-rounds, shortened the length of swings, and done away with teeter-totters to keep children safe. Children have fewer opportunities for unstructured outdoor play than ever before, and recess times at school are shrinking due to demanding educational environments.

With this book, you'll discover little things you can do anytime, anywhere to help your kids achieve the movement they need to be happy and healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

I got a lot more out of this book than I thought I would. When I started reading it there was a lot about problems in the classroom, studies that showed kids needed to move more, input from seasoned teachers, the authors experiences running a camp, and all of that is great. This book is well researched and well reasoned, the author makes her point clearly and concisely, but I didn’t feel like it pertained to me and my child. The Toddler has never been in a classroom, so the problems of school age kids, even preschool, seem very far off to me right now. It wasn’t until I got to chapter 8, When Is My Baby Ready For The Outdoors?, that this book really got my attention. Because up till now I’ve never really made outdoor play a priority in our day.

I never even really thought about letting her play outside, let alone play outside unsupervised. She’s my baby, why would she ever need to play without me? But after reading Barefoot and Balanced I’m thinking playing outside might be exactly what she needs. I’ve noticed a lot of things since we began packing for our move and one of them is that she depends on me, or whatever adult happens to be at our house, for play, independent play doesn’t really happen, and creative play doesn’t really happen either; a tea set is just a tea set, the play kitchen is just for storage, empty containers are just empty containers. I’m not giving her space to explore and be creative. She is my baby and she does still need me, but she needs to be able to explore the world and her own limits too. At first, I was sitting on the couch reading, going ‘that's not about my parenting, I don’t need to do that’ and I got a little defensive and wanted to quit reading, but I quickly realized that it is about my parenting, and that reading books like this one, accepting the new knowledge and doing better going forward was exactly why books like this are important to read. It’s not about criticizing parents, it’s about learning to be better parents who are better able to meet our kids needs and let them learn skills that will serve them for their whole lives.

Personal tangent aside; After getting past the school age kids part at the beginning, Barefoot and Balanced has chapters about what ages kids should be outside at, how to involve kids in outdoor time, how to overcome fears about letting kids play outside (I needed that part!), how to slowly transition to and encourage independent play, and how to get younger kids to be comfortable with less parental involvement.  The author also makes a point of saying that it’s still important to play with your kids, play is bonding and will always be important, which made me feel better because I hated the idea of not playing with The Toddler. There is also a large list of recommended reading at the back of the book, and I can’t say I’ll read all of them but it’s something I would like to take a closer look at.

There’s a lot of great information in this book, and I found it a great opportunity to grow as a parent, and I’ve decided to make outdoor play more of a priority for both The Toddler and myself. Since being outside is recommended to help manage anxiety I feel like we can both benefit from it. I gave this book 4 out 5 stars, just because the beginning is a bit preachy, when it comes to schools and recess, and things like that. This was a very informative read, and it’s encouraged me to look more into my parenting and things I could be doing differently. I’ve got a couple of books that are about the Charlotte Mason method  that I bought a few months ago but never read, so those will be coming up soon!

Okay, it’s been a couple of months since I wrote this review and I wanted to come in a update it. Since reading Barefoot and Balanced I have made an intentional effort to make outside time a regular part of our day. Nearly everyday we go outside after naptime. The Toddler plays in the yard while I read a book on the porch, and I have to say it’s probably the favorite part of our day for both of us. It’s relaxing for me and an energy burner for The Toddler. She sleeps better, she plays better, and she’s more independent. If you have children of any age I strongly recommend this book. It’s been a good thing for both me and The Toddler.
Find it on Goodreads here.

I received this book free through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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