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Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children
This article contains helpful information about Angela Hanscom’s new book Balanced and Barefoot for children struggling with sensory issues in the classroom. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
As many of you know, there is a high rise in sensory issues among children today. Why now? What is causing it and why didn’t we see it as much in previous generations?
Schools and teachers now have more students that struggle with attention, focus, fidgeting, posture, hypersensitivities and social issues. Many of these children aren’t labeled with a specific diagnosis like Autism or ADHD. In fact, most of them are mainstream children who don’t appear physically or mentally different than other students, yet there is still a disconnect in the classroom.
What we have found is that the more children are removed from free play and opportunities to develop their gross and fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, proprioceptive and vestibular systems, the more prone they are to sensory and behavior issues in the classroom. If they are constantly bothered by background noises, can’t sit still in their chair, and can’t retain what the teacher is teaching, how can we expect them to learn higher academic concepts?
As parents and educators push for more academics and technology in the classroom to compete with students worldwide, recess and playing outdoors has become much less of a priority. Swinging on tires and playing on monkey bars has been replaced with longer class periods and fine motor exercises used for training the brain have been replaced with bright screens and the swipe of the finger. While technology is still important for children to learn, too much is preventing our kids from transitioning from right-brained thinking to a left-brained education system (organization, reasoning, problem solving, expressing thoughts on paper).
Angela Hanscom – Balanced and Barefoot
Angela Hanscom, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, is creating awareness about this very subject and has written many articles in the Washington Post about her experience and findings with children and their lack of free play in today’s world.
Recently, Hnascom has written a book, entitled Balanced and Barefoot, where she discusses how important free play is for a child’s cognitive development, self-regulation, emotional grounding and motor planning. She says, “When children are deprived of child-led play experiences, they may struggle with higher-level thinking skills such as coming up with their own ideas, problem-solving, and other forms of creative expression.”
In Balanced and Barefoot, Hanscom also talks about the significance of children being in nature and how important it is for children to be outdoors. Children who are outdoors longer than 45 minutes have more exposure to sensory integration through touch, smell, sound and light. As children become more integrated with their environment, it calms the body and the senses so they aren’t craving the movement they need to sit still in the classroom.
Even with all the toys and playgrounds available for kids, not all of them are created equal. Kids need toys, playgrounds and activities with a little “danger” as Hanscom discusses in her book for swinging, crashing, jumping, climbing, and building core muscle. Something as simple as posture in the classroom can be affected if a child doesn’t have the core muscle to lift their head or their body to read notes from the chalkboard.
She says, “If [children] keep their body and head still, it reduces activation of the brain, making it harder to do what the teacher wants them to do: pay attention and learn. That wiggling and fidgeting is actually the children straining to use their resources to learn, and it usually only earns them a reprimand.”
Hanscom encourages parents and children to experience both nature indoors and outdoors to enhance their learning experiences. If we hold our children back from getting the sensory integration they need, we could cause more harm in the classroom for their cognitive development and attention and focus.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs