Balanced and Barefoot
by Angela J. Hanscom
New Harbinger Publications, 2016. 256 pgs. Nonfiction
It’s official. I’ve joined the quirky group of non-parents who occasionally read parenting books. Don’t judge.
Balanced and barefoot, written by a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of a nature camp for children, explores the challenges that arise from raising children primarily indoors. Angela Hanscom describes how physical and cognitive difficulties, including sensory processing issues, ADHD, anger and aggression, balance problems, and decreased strength, have skyrocketed among children in large part because they have very few opportunities to move throughout the day. Children are simultaneously tired and wired – mentally exhausted from hours in the classroom, and physically desperate for activity. They crave sensory experiences like spinning in circles, tumbling down hills, and climbing as high as they can. Things that may seem dangerous to adults, like children jumping off increasingly high rocks or babies playing in the dirt, are actually necessary for proper development, as they help children to understand and stretch their physical boundaries and skills. Hanscom also discusses how unstructured, increasingly independent, outdoor time calms children, decreases behavioral issues, and allows for better learning in the classroom.
This was an interesting read that opened my eyes to how many unnecessary and even harmful restrictions we place on children in modern American society. Hanscom offers simple, age-appropriate suggestions that are often common sense but sometimes counterintuitive. I recommend her book, especially for interested parents and teachers.