top of page

Updated: Mar 15

During the worst of the pandemic, children had little to no physical interaction with their peers. Adults may be reluctant to let kids engage in physical play regardless, for fear of their child getting hurt or hurting others—which might worry us more! It’s hard to watch kids getting into it, or even just getting close, without wanting to pull them apart. Should we?
In fact, the experience of touch, both affectionate and rough, contributes significantly to children's healthy physical, social, and emotional development. High-fives, holding hands, and hugging give comfort and make a child feel like they matter in the world outside of home. Kids tickle each other, roll around, and even wrestle in ways that look dangerous to us but produce the loudest laughs and greatest joy! Playful release of aggression builds a child’s sense of their own power and strengthens their sense of their body in space; and exerting energy in a healthy way can actually make it easier for them to settle down when needed.
Kids may get hurt in the course of this physical play, giving rise to tears and anger—but for healthy development, kids need to experience it all! As they occasionally confront unfortunate consequences of physical interaction, kids learn social skills such as how to set their own boundaries as well as respect others’, how to ask for and offer consent, and how to repair relationships after conflict.
So there’s no need to wrestle with whether or not to let kids get physical! The benefits of touch outweigh the risk of bumps and bruises. And when this play is outside in nature, the benefits increase: Children get fresh air and open sky; no structures or walls get in the way or confine the play; and the forgiving earth offers gentle landings.

22 views0 comments

Updated: Mar 15

Over time, children who meet each other regularly to play in the woods develop deep connections to each other. Of course, joyful immersion in a shared play scenario fully imagined, using only what they find in nature, creates memories that last. But enduring repeated shared trials and successes deepen the relationships. When they confront the challenges of play in the elements and adults decline to intervene, children learn how to help each other, validate each other’s achievements, and communicate with each other about the things that matter to them.

A child becomes frustrated while dragging a heavy log; the others step up to lift it together.

A child stretches out her hand to pull another up a slippery trunk to reach her. One below directs the child where to put her feet and reassures her, “You can do it!”

On a cold day, a child puts the glove on another's left hand. On a rainy day, children work together to hang a tarp on a branch for shelter (whether or not they're successful isn't the point!).

A child slips and falls, about to cry at the shock of it, when another stops to check her scrape and help her up.

"Hey, come look! I forgot that dogs can actually swim!" A child puts his arm around another to physically share the excitement.

Over time, children’s sense of accountability to and responsibility for others grows. When adults don't do so much for them, children do for each other! Learning how to identify and respond to another’s needs when things get tough (in academic terms, practicing other-oriented, prosocial behaviors) strengthens the social bonds that create a community of care.

14 views0 comments

Updated: Mar 15

We want our children to grow up to find their own way through life, but it's hard to let them go first on busy city streets! In the woods, though, we can invite children to choose their own path; we let them lead the way. Here, they get much-needed practice being agents of their destinies. When adults lag behind children get ahead, learning leadership and so much else!

They debate and decide together which way to go, especially when paths diverge—sometimes discovering that different paths can lead to the same end.

They test boundaries: Do you tread where others have gone, or do you make your own way? They navigate obstacles in the way, respecting others' right to share the space.

Walking ahead, they communicate with each other in animated engagement—building relationships and sharing joy! Children who struggle with conversation join in too, maybe finding it easier to share their thoughts when all eyes are facing forward.

When a peer is slow, or scared, natural empathy kicks in: They walk alongside, or they take a hand and show another where to step.

Most children thrill at the chance to get out in front and leave the adults trailing behind! The pride that comes from getting where you wanted to go, the surprise of discovering someplace new, even the regret over the path not chosen . . . Children need to experience all of these to learn how to lead with confidence, and, no less important, to learn how to follow with grace.

22 views0 comments
bottom of page