The value of play

Last Child in the Woods is an excellent book about the lost art of outdoor play. Outside play is something we evolved to need, and helps develop motor skills and imagination of children.  Going outside to hide is a great way to a distressed child to calm themselves. Yet many children don’t have access to outdoor play, due to urbanization, or their parents working. When my mom and dad were kids, they used to just go play with the neighbor kids for hours and somehow everyone would just come home all by themselves.  Now parents would be put in jail for letting their kids play without supervision. Not that today’s kids would want to play outside.  The constant exposure to electronics is changing the way our brains are wired but healthy doses of nature can restore some of the lost mental health.  Children such as my son with developmental disorders need daily outside play for the best neurological outcomes.  Fortunately the state we live in allows us to take Jr out of public schooland put him in private school on the state’s dollar.  The private school has an aftercare program where my son gets bully free time with kids his age to play outside for 3 hours each day, 5 days a week.  The boys play softball, the girls play on the swingsets. My son loves it.  Also his vitamin D levels have stayed high even though I stopped supplementing thanks to the sun exposure.  Of course, the exposure to soil microbes is another big reason children need to play outside. Such a simple thing, it’s free to go to your local parks and nature preserves, and anyone can have a container garden even if you live in an apartment.  It has done more good for my son than expensive occupational therapy.

Camping is another low cost way to connect with nature and something my son gets really excited about.  I am blessed to have parents who made camping a priority and have really fond memories of that. It’s beautiful to see my son’s love of nature develop.  Teaching him bird calls has helped his auditory processing. Nature is a multisensory treat!

Many years ago I read a book called The Healing Woods about a woman with some incurable disease.  Someone told her to go live in the woods and she found a guide and did go live in the woods and she got better. I must find it and read it again. Anytime I am in a bad mood, a forest can cheer me right up.

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