As children’s lives become more “virtual,” teachers are noticing a decrease in attention and doctors are reporting an alarming increase in sensory and emotional disorders. How can you make sure your kid is instead healthy, resilient and strong? Hunter talks to Angela Hanscom, founder of Timbernook and author of Balanced & Barefoot about the power of outdoor play.
Angela J. Hanscom is a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of TimberNook—an award-winning developmental and nature-based program that has gained international popularity. She is the author of Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children. Hanscom is also a frequent contributor to The Washington Post and in 2019 won a Small Business of the year award for the State of New Hampshire.
Hunter is the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, host of the Mindful Mama podcast and author of the bestselling book Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids. She helps parents bring more calm and peace into their daily lives. Hunter has over twenty years of experience in meditation practices and has taught mindfulness to thousands worldwide. She is the mother of two active daughters, who challenge her everyday to hone her craft!
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 The Key to Making Kids Stronger & More Resilient – Angela Hanscom
[00:00:00] Angela Hanscom: Getting them outside and allowing them to have that time to get bored and play together outside is really key.
[00:00:09] Hunter: You’re listening to the Mindful Mama Podcast, episode number 375. Today we’re talking about the key to making kids stronger and more resilient with Angela Hanscomb.
Welcome to the Mindful Mama podcast. Here it’s about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Mama, we know that you cannot give what you do not have. And when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I’m your host, Hunter Clark Fields. I hope smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.
I’ve been practicing mindfulness for over 20 years. I’m the creator of Mindful parent. And I’m the author of the best selling book, Raising Good Humans, A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting, and Raising Kind Confident Kids. Hey, welcome back to the Mindful Mama podcast, my friend.
Listen, if you haven’t done so yet, please hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss anything. And if you’ve gotten something from the podcast, do me a favor, please go over to Apple Podcast. Leave us a rating and review. It just helps the podcast grow more, Takes like 10 seconds and it makes such a big difference.
I hugely, hugely appreciate it. And just a moment, I’m going to be sitting down with Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of TimberNook, an award-winning developmental and nature-based program that has gained international popularity. She’s the author of Balanced and Barefoot, How Unrestricted Outdoor Play makes for strong, confident and Capable.
Angela is also a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, and in 2019 won a small business of the year award for the State of New Hampshire, and we are going to talk about how children’s lives are becoming so much more virtual and how e. Teachers and occupational therapists are noticing this decrease in intention and doctors are reporting an alarming increase in sensory and emotional disorders.
So how can you make sure your kid is he healthy and resilient and strong? Instead, we’re gonna talk about the power of outdoor play and how you can make it happen in your life. So join me at the table as I talk to Angela Hanscomb. I’m really enjoying your book. Balanced and Barefoot. My, um, pregnant neighbor doesn’t know it yet, but I’m gonna be giving it to her.
Oh, perfect. When I’m done. I’m so excited. But you write in your book, um, the Cold Hard Truth is that when you compare today’s children to past generations, they just can’t keep up. Children are getting weaker, less resilient, and less imaginative, pretty strong words. So can you tell us more about that?
What’s, what do you see that’s going.
[00:02:48] Angela Hanscom: Yeah, there’s actually a lot happening. Um, some of the key things that I kind of paid attention to in the beginning of my journey was interesting sensory issues. Like I had a little boy come in for therapy in a clinic setting, uh, cuz traditionally occupational therapists work indoors.
And so I was working in a sensory gym and I remember a child coming in that didn’t like wind in his face and really, Struggling with how to treat that in a clinic setting. Um, I was thinking, should I get a fan and blow the fan on the child? Um, a lot of kids not wanting to get dirty. Um, they don’t like glue on their fingers, but the number one issue that we’re having to treat is balance.
Um, so more and more kids are literally falling out of their chairs and onto the ground in a school environment, starting to run into each other more frequently. Um, but having troubles with spat awareness is a, is a number one issue.
[00:03:44] Hunter: Wow, Okay. So you’ve, you’re seeing that, you know, then physically, right?
This is the, that we can’t, that today’s children can’t keep up with the way kids have been in the past, and this is a pretty marked change as far as like, Resilience, but you also say less imaginative. So what is it? What do you mean by that?
[00:04:05] Angela Hanscom: Yeah, so, um, I remember interviewing teachers when I was writing this book, and veteran teachers had been around at least 30, 40 years and, Um, one of the things that they were seeing in the recess environment was kids were more apt to play, imagine of games.
Years past. Of course, they had a longer recess session, so that is definitely part of the issue. But, um, nowadays they’re seeing kids play, uh, more structured games like tag or playing on and off a play structure, but a lot less imaginary type.
[00:04:41] Hunter: So less pretend play. I mean it’s uh, from my mind, pretend play that is like the key thing from childhood is like playing.
Pretend like you be this, I’ll be this. We’ll do this, right? Yes, absolutely. Okay, so. You are seeing. So you started to explore this. Tell us a little bit about how you came to write this book. You’re seeing these effects, you’re seeing these kids falling out of their seats, kids who can’t deal with wind, a lot of things.
And um, how, how did that work translate into this book and this exploration? Sure.
[00:05:19] Angela Hanscom: Yeah. So when I had children of my own, it became a very personal journey for me. I was, uh, noticing my oldest was about to go to kindergarten and a lot of her friends, uh, needed occupational therapy. And really occupational therapy was kind of rare when I grew up in the early eighties.
Uh, it was really more reserved for children with more severe disabilities, so I thought that was interesting. In the meantime, in our clinic settings, we had a wait list that went out at least a. For children to have to wait for occupational therapy. And then the New York Times article came out where there was a significant rise in the past 10 years for, for our kind of services.
And then my daughter went to kindergarten and she was a young five. . And I remember the teacher meeting with us ahead of time and looking at us saying, This is not kindergarten. Like you remember growing up? She said, This will be more like first grade. She said, Um, we don’t have time to teach your children how to cut with scissors, so my husband’s gonna precut everything at nighttime.
So we don’t have to worry about that skill. She said, Oh my gosh, I know if your kids can’t tie their shoes, please put Velcro shoes on them, or elastic laces cuz we don’t have time to teach your children that skill. Finally, she said there’s five minutes for snack, but if it gets in the way of curriculum, it’ll become a working snack.
So they’ll have to eat while they do curriculum. And then she said 15 minutes for recess. And these are, most of them were young. 5, 5, 6 year olds. Right. And she said, when it snows, and I, you know, I was living in New Hampshire at the time. It will be an indoor recess because we don’t have time to change your children into their snow gear.
And, um, as an occupational therapist that works on developmental skills, you know, having no time for these developmental, neurological, um, skills, you know, didn’t sit right with me. So I ended up pulling my daughter outta. And homeschooling for a couple years. And I learned a lot about Finland where kids were in the river dissecting fish to learn about ecology.
You know, they were, um, they were scoring way higher in math and science, um, but they didn’t start till they were age seven and they got out early around age 16 and did more trade type, um, schooling. And so that really fascinated me. And the other connection I kept thinking about. We live on 12 acres of Woodland, um, in New Hampshire, or that’s where TimberNook, um, originated from.
And sometimes I would take a shortcut through the neighborhood to get to that property. There’s a lot of children in that neighborhood, and I, one day it dawned on me, I’m like, Where are the kids? Why are they not biking and, you know, playing in the streets or playing in their yards? And that’s when I knew I wanted to do something with getting kids.
[00:08:07] Hunter: I see the same, like I’m amazed at how few kids I see in my neighborhood. Like I know there are kids of all ages. Like in my neighborhood, I, I live in a really, a really, really like walkable neighborhood where there’s walking paths behind and there’s like big public greens and there’s playgrounds and there’s woods, and there’s all these things.
And I’m kind of surprised how infrequent. When I go for bike ride in the afternoon, I see kids after school. It’s pretty, it’s, it’s amazing to me. Indoors is shocking too. It’s too interesting. I guess so this is all, this is, this is this change that’s happened and, and it’s a really very profound change.
And you talk about how. All this time we’re spending inside is hurting kids. Are, are, is there anything that we miss as far as like the way that, um, the way that all this time that they’re now inside that we used to be outside is, is hurting kids?
[00:09:15] Angela Hanscom: In so many different ways. Um, I’ll just start with one simple but profound way is that kids are in chairs for a majority of their day now, especially elementary and age up.
And I was sitting in, um, some, a research study for an occupational therapist, uh, here in America, and she said that kids are sitting about nine hours a day in a. Wow. So that’s, you know, think about it. Um, we’re not made to set that long and, um, but my biggest problem with it is that kids are constantly in this upright position.
Um, and what really needs to happen is they need to spin in circles. They need to go upside down, get into that anti-gravity position, um, and move in rapids ways, basically. In ways that make adults gasp. And so we want them climbing trees and jumping off rocks and challenging their muscles and their senses.
And the reason for that is because in your inner ear are little hair cells and we need to move in those rapid ways to move the fluid back and forth and stimulate those hair cells. And that develops what we call your vestibular sense, which is your balance sense. And that sense is key to all the other senses.
So if that’s underdeveloped and kids. Being overly restricted and not getting enough opportunity to move throughout the day, the fluid in the inner ear can thicken, um, and they can start to have trouble knowing, uh, where their body is in space, um, which is important to be able to navigate their environment safely, get on and off that playground equipment effectively.
Stay in their seat without falling out. Um, and the way we treat that as therapists is we actually will have them spin in circles. And if you go in our clinic settings, we’ll have swings hang from the ceiling and we will place children in all different ways and spin them. And that really helps ’em to know, again, where their bodies in space so they can be safer and more effecti.
[00:11:14] Hunter: That’s so interesting about spinning too because one of the things, you know, I’ve talked about with my friends and, and is the lack of merry go rounds now. Like when I was a kid, like it was, we were constantly on this merry round. It was when there were like teenagers spinning it. It could be petrifying you held on for dear life, but it was awesome and so fun.
Like I still remember that and I remember once we. One old fashioned merry around like in Pennsylvania somewhere on some park. And I was like, Oh my God, it’s a real merry go round. And I spun my kids fast on it and they were like, Oh my god, Mommy . It was really funny though. But they still remember that play, that merry go round too.
But those don’t exist anymore. This is like the part of the safety is where we’re trying to protect kids and we’re actually kind of hurting them cuz maybe they’re not, they’re not getting their vestibular system.
[00:12:07] Angela Hanscom: Exercised. Yeah, absolutely. And it’s really basic physics. Like we’ve shortened slides, we shortened swings, we’ve taken away merry grounds and teeter totters and all of those.
Um, were really therapeutic for children. The merry ground especially is, um, if you look in our OT books, you’ll see that that specific exercise where the child’s on the outside. Um, you know, for instance, like if I’m holding a child in a hammock and. , I’m spinning on my own axis, but they’re on the outside and they’re spinning around me.
That creates a centrifugal force in the inner ear, um, bends the hair cells in one direction and that helps with sustained attention and grounding for the child. And so, yeah, that was like, and it’s one of the most powerful, uh, festival or inputs you can give a child that’s even more powerful than a child just spending on their own.
So, It’s interesting that we took that away and deemed them unsafe when it actually helped with, again, sustained attention and a really grounding effect on children.
[00:13:06] Hunter: That’s so funny. I think about how we did that. Like our kids want, wanted that so much like spin me around in a circle, right? Like they love that.
They wanted that desperately. And my, you know, my one daughter used to like, you know, walk between us and you know, want us to swing her between two adults and she taught herself how to flip over when we. Swung her so she could just like flip all the way over. She scared us, of course the first time that she just like flipped over.
But these are things that kids need to do that and should, should be doing. I.
[00:13:37] Angela Hanscom: Yeah, So a child will naturally seek out, um, the neurological input they need at any given time. So if a child’s, um, yeah, spinning in circles, it’s because they’re really trying to organize their senses and, you know, um, sometimes I’ll see a parent go, Don’t spin.
You’re gonna get dizzy, or, you know, get down from that rock cuz you’re gonna get hurt. However, if we keep ke um, keep children from doing those different movements, then we become the barrier to that neurological development that needs to.
[00:14:08] Hunter: Wow. So the whole this, it’s, it’s this idea of like, we’re this idea that we’re trying to pro, that our number one job is to protect our kids and that they should be careful, right?
Be careful is like a thing we are saying constantly, but sounds like, you know, they need to be doing risky things. They need to be doing risky play and climbing and spinning and jumping and. .
[00:14:32] Angela Hanscom: Yeah. It’s funny because we, in a therapy clinic, we’ll constantly challenge children. We call it the just Right challenge.
We try to go a little bit higher. Mm-hmm. , um, again, to make improvements in sensory and motor development.
[00:14:47] Hunter: This is amazing. So, I mean, we’re, it’s like we’re in a culture that’s kind of slowly moved towards this, and so now, , we think that, you know, it’s normal and you know, they’re, the way that kids are in playground, you, you talk about this, that they’re, you know, teachers aren’t allowed to let kids like hang upside down in from the.
Monkey bars, or they’re not even allowed to be on a swing on their belly. Um, I remember being so frustrated once being at the Y M C A and seeing this kid climb on this twisty climbing thing and was clearly climbing it and the tea, The teacher was like, No, you can’t climb on that because you’re not X Age yet.
But he could obviously do it. But because he wasn’t a particular age yet, he wasn’t allowed to. And this is everywhere, I guess, Or it’s mostly in the United States, or is it everywhere? Do you know? I don.
[00:15:43] Angela Hanscom: Uh, yeah, so it definitely is happening everywhere. I mean, the, the change in development is happening. I mean, even in New Zealand, I’ve talked over there in Australia and they’re, they’re seeing changes as well, even though you picture children barefoot outside New Zealand
[00:15:58] Hunter: So, Okay, so let’s talk about getting outside. And for, for me, this is like a huge value for me, like where we bought our house, it’s on a cul-de-sac. I’m just like, I can see. A little park that goes into a patch of woods right out my window. And this, I was like, This is perfect for kids. It’s a cul-de-sac.
This is a little patch of woods. This is great. But kids aren’t getting enough time outdoors. Why is it the, you know, we can imagine spinning, we can imagine doing these movements, but you say particularly outdoors is important. Why is. .
[00:16:35] Angela Hanscom: Yeah. So even when you step outside, especially into nature, then um, you know, once you step outdoors, multiple synopsis are firing in the brain because more, um, senses are in being engaged, right?
So like if you picture being in a room right now versus being outside in the woods or on the beach, you start to think about. What, what senses are being engaged out there that you’re not getting in that room, Like wind. You know, we talked about that. Um, temperature changes, you might hear nature sounds different, smells and all of that again, helps, um, fire more synapses in the brain and your chances for that organization in the brain are gonna be higher.
The other ideal state for that sensory organization to happen again, that’s laying the foundation. Uh, for learning and paying attention is to be in a calm but alert state of mind. So again, you think about the colors you see outside, you know, greens and blues, um, browns. Those are very calming stimuli. You know, even certain smells of trees will reduce cortisol levels in the brain.
There’s a reason why your doctor was like, Take your babies outside. It’s very calming, but you’re alert, aren’t you? Because the ground’s uneven. You’re constantly adjusting your body. You know, there might be an animal running by. So you’re in this calm alert state and um, you wanna think about what percentage of time are children in an environment that’s conducive to that organiz?
And then what percentage of time are they in an environment that could be, um, disorganizing or dysregulating? Um, you know, it could be that they’re in a classroom and there’s, they’re really close to other children, and that can be disorganizing for children. Um, it could, the noise level often goes up.
When you’re in a classroom, there’s more posters on the walls. There’s more transitions often in children’s lives than, than they’re made to tolerate, um, constantly having to change direction, and that can be very disorganizing to their brain. Um, so Stepping Outdoors is, is really a natural environment that’s conducive to that organization of the.
That’s one reason why nature is important. .
[00:18:55] Hunter: Well, yeah. I mean you can experience all that. Like you go outside, you feel better, your stress levels reduce. Kids go outside, you feel better. Um, and you talk about how outdoor play helps kids who struggle in traditional classrooms. Tell us about that.
[00:19:10] Angela Hanscom: Yeah, so, um, playing outside, um, you know, often we’ll have, uh, field trips come out and out at TimberNook.
They really have hours to dive deep into play schemes and so often teachers will go out and will see children become leaders that don’t always take that role in an indoor setting, um, and find motivation where maybe there was a lack of motivation in a traditional setting before.
[00:19:39] Hunter: Okay, cool. And they’re, you know, and they’re, they’re out in the world.
They’re getting confidence, they’re building awareness, all of these things. You were the creator of Timber? No. You mentioned it a couple times. Tell the listener what it
[00:19:51] Angela Hanscom: is. Okay. So really we provide outdoor play experiences for children, um, typically in the woods, and that’s where timber comes from. Um, timber means, you know, trees, and then nook is like a.
Place, um, nook or cranny away from the adult world. Um, so basically it’s their opportunity to have, um, as authentic play as possible so the adults actually kind of fade back, um, and allow children to direct their play. And we allow for, um, hours. So at least usually it’s at least three hours of play time that they have
[00:20:29] Hunter: out.
We’ve had Peter Gray on the podcast who’s talked about how kids play is it’s not, it’s not really kid directed. Like kids play harder and more when an adult isn’t present. So that idea of the kid, the adults fading back is important. The kids actually get more exercise, they, they get deeper into play, all of those things when the adults aren’t there.
So we interfere with their play. So it sounds like you guys are delib. Practicing to not interfere.
[00:20:59] Angela Hanscom: Yeah. And what we’ve noticed over the years is if, let’s say, um, kids were building a teepee, if we’re standing right there, um, the kids would turn for seeking a constant adult reassurance. Like, is this okay?
You know, can you do this for me? What do we do next? Or there’d be more tattling. And what we noticed is if we took like 20, 30 feet, went away and got down low, so reducing adult presence. but they’re still being supervised cuz play can change quickly. Mm-hmm. , they would start turning to each other to solve their own problems and initiate play ideas.
And that’s something you brought up as well is, you know, often our society has, um, gotten to the habit of directing children’s play so much that children are losing the ability to just even initiate play and then have time to execute that play.
[00:21:47] Hunter: Uh, because we we’re replacing play time with like, you know, soccer for three year olds and five year olds and things like that.
And you talk about how like our, our sports are just so different than they were 30 years ago. Is it, is it because there’s so many organized activities that kids aren’t having a chance to organize their own activities and, and really practice that, that essential thing that we, we think is you? Uh, I don’t know.
It’s like the, the thing that kids do when they play, but.
[00:22:20] Angela Hanscom: Yeah, I just think it’s all, it can be all consuming. Uh, you know, my daughter played hockey for many years and you know, she was like six or seven and we were doing a travel team thing and driving all over the place and it really, we had to drag her whole family.
But it often, what’s happening is like the organized sports is not just a once a week or twice a week thing, like when we were growing up. It’s, it’s pretty consuming sometimes, almost every single day of the week is. Directed around that particular sport. Uh, so I really, I think we have to just take a step back and slow down, um, and allow for plenty of good old fashioned outdoor playtime.
[00:23:02] Hunter: And you have recommendations. I love this cuz you get so particular and granular in this book about what kids are needed. You know, you, you talk about how much active play is enough. And I, you know, I, I, I have it open to the page at page 85 and her great book. But, um, that, you know, from infants to toddlers to preschoolers to school age and to adolescents.
Do you wanna take us through that? How much time do they need to be outside or would it be ideal? Like if we’re just imagining an ideal world where work situation and all the things are great, let’s just imagine what would be ideal for kids
[00:23:39] Angela Hanscom: to be. Yes. So like I feel like my basic recommendation is at least three hours of outdoor playtime a day.
Um, at least for everyone. And the r and one reason why I say that is when I speak all over the place, um, I keep asking. Adults, how much outdoor playtime did you get growing up? And the numbers I get are pretty consistently between like four to six hours. I mean, everyone’s different, but the majority fall within that range of how much playtime they got growing up and it, and it’s changed.
So when I ask them to think about how much playtime they get now, Um, a child that they know that they work with, or it could be a child in their family, how much playtime they get, It’s usually between 45 minutes to an hour and a half. And again, that can be every, everywhere from 50 minutes to more than that.
But that’s a significant change in the environment. You know, going from four to six hours of digging in the dirt, you know, climbing trees, um, stimulating those muscles and senses that we talked about. To just, you know, I think research is like 48 minutes. That’s a, that’s a huge change. And so it’s bound to effect development in different ways.
So three hours. Um, when I say that, sometimes people are like, That’s crazy. But if you really think about it, like we got, most of us got more than that, and that was on a typical school day. It’s just, again, prioritizing that outdoor play.
[00:25:04] Hunter: Well, what happens when the parents say, Okay, I mean, this sounds great.
I want this, Angela, I’m gonna kick my kids out the door. Go play outside. You can’t come in until dinnertime come in when the street lights come on, unless my parents used to say, Right, yeah, right. Make sure you’re back when the street lights come on. Um, and the kids are back at the door in five minutes saying, Can I come inside and play on my iPad?
What, what advice do you have for a parent whose kid just doesn’t know what to do or, or you know, is more intrigued by the inside stuff? That’s a
[00:25:37] Angela Hanscom: great question and, and I think that happens a lot actually. And so, um, sometimes I think people fall back into the habit of, Oh, I need to in entertain my child, or I need to find something for them to do.
And that’s really not the approach we should be taking. So boredom is really important and having practice to play. Items outside in different ways is really key. So let’s say that child comes in and they’re like, I just see leaves, rocks, and sticks outside. You know, I have no idea what to do with them.
Let’s say you send that child back outside and they sit in the dirt. Um, they pick up a stick cuz they’re bored and they start digging with it. Um, what we call, we call this visual affordances. Like right now the child has no affordances, but if they start digging with it, they realize I have one visual affordance.
This can be a tool to dig with. And then let’s say they start writing with it. Now they have two affordances I can write with it and I can dig with it. Now let’s say another child is playing in that vicinity and they use a stick to build a for with that child now has three ideas on how to use that stick in creative ways.
Um, and so the more practice they get with that material, And they more, they see, the more they see other children use that material in different ways, uh, the more creative children get. And so at TimberNook, um, not only do we give ’em plenty of time to experiment, but we also provide loose parts like sticks.
Tires is another material that can be used for many play purposes. Um, I might think of 50 ways to play with a tire, and you might think of 50 different ways, but I’m sure we’re going to have some overlap. But I, I bet I will inspire you to play with that tire in different ways and, and vice versa. And so having other children involved, um, you know, I know Peter Gray talks about this a lot too.
Mix ages is really important, but that’s all part of the inspiration to play.
[00:27:33] Hunter: And this is tough because everybody else’s kids are inside . Yes. It’s hard. I mean, it literally is, is hard because, you know, we don’t wanna impose on anybody. We don’t wanna, um, necessarily make other people feel judged by our values.
You know, we, cuz I, I want my kids maybe not to, maybe not have screen time on a weekday and be outside playing for three hours. And when I talk to other parents in the neighborhood, I’m worried that they’re gonna feel judged if I bring this up right. That, that, that they, So I guess this is where like organizing something is can really comes in handy,
[00:28:15] Angela Hanscom: I guess.
Yeah. Um, and that’s really why Tim Burnett came about. Um, you know, because to try to provide an opportunity cuz opportunity is huge. However, I do believe that parents, uh, have more, um, can get really creative with this. Um, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I think getting out of the mindset of having play dates where it’s like just an hour and an adult is directing the activity to moving towards having other children come over for the.
and just having a little bit more time with those children and then, um, again, um, getting them outside and allowing them to have that time to get bored and play together outside is really key. Uh, sometimes it takes an adult going outside with them because children might be nervous or it’s so novel to them.
Um, it’s just key that, that do. Direct the play for them, you know, that they let’s, you know, stay busy with chores, for instance, like raking or shoveling or whatever it is. Um, but another technique is putting adult items out there for children to be inspired to play with. Um, such as fort building materials, right?
So a lot of kids like building fort, especially older kids. Um, so, um, curtains, um, Like milk crates, um, planks, stuff like that is really fun for kids to experiment. For little children, if you have mud in your area, you know, just, um, experimenting with that and putting stainless steel pitchers and stainless steel trays right near the mud puddle to see what the children do with it.
Or maybe you put. Trucks and planks right next to the mud puddle and see what children do with it. So just experimenting with your environment, allowing some inspiration. You don’t even have to tell the children what they’re for. In fact, it’s better if you don’t say, This is for this. Just again, a little bit inspiration, a little bit staging your environment and the adult stepping back a little
[00:30:16] Hunter: bit.
And what Angela’s talking about. There’s actual research about the adults getting involved and kids learning less. There’s like, um, there’s research about a toy, right? Like where they, with one group of kids, the adult said, This is how you do this thing. And then within another group, group of kids, they just gave it to them and let ’em explore it and the kids who they gave it to them and let them explore learned.
Seven different ways that they could use this thing. Whereas the kids, where the adult went in and directed them, they stopped exploring it cuz they, that’s what they had been told it does. And so that they were done. Um, so we, we need to sort of back off what, And you actually have, I love how you have like, suggestions for us, like go like clip your bushes, if you have to be outside, right?
Like, I mean, it’s a nice excuse to kinda like weed your garden. I mean, and that you’re getting all the benefits of lovely outside time too. And, um, and I. Right. I can’t, I mean, I have to like follow you. Extended time. We would have a, you know, my kids kids would have a friend over. They were so used to going in the woods.
They would take these kids into the woods and they would go and. Be gone for a while. Inevitably, like every single kid came back with wet feet, like from being like walking in the creek. But it was great. Like, it was just kind of like a tradition that the kids came back with wet feet. Um, but they would, they’d be gone for a while and it was great and uh, and so it’s part of it.
I’m thinking about the listener here and you know, if you have young kids and you say, Okay, that sounds lovely, Hunter, but you know, I have a five year old, can’t just let my five year old loosen the woods. Right? So part of it, I imagine it is scaffolding. Like I love this idea of like an organ, an organization like TimberNook.
There’s also like all those forest preschools now. So things like that, like I think that we should definitely seek out those things. But also if we don’t have those, we. W I mean, we wanna just use basic common sense as far as teaching them how basic, you know, safety and scaffolding for being outside and being out and about in the world or the woods, right?
Yes, absolutely. And you have some of that here.
[00:32:33] Angela Hanscom: Yes. Um, yeah, so, um, one, so what we were talking about is yeah, just like a little bit of inspiration. Um, and then having other children over is another, uh, huge benefit and then phasing the adult out over time. So, yeah, five year old might. They might not be safe in the environment.
They might be. I mean, it, you can’t really go on age, right? So, um, like at, like we were talking about, but just watching them and what they’re ready for, uh, and then phasing yourself out. So eventually going inside, you know, it, a lot of it has to do with trust and knowing. The environment around you and what your children are capable of.
I had my children carry walkie-talkies for a while when they went to, Oh, we did that. Did you ? Yeah. Yeah, we did it, um, camping. But we at one time, remember, um, finding the walkie-talkie on a picnic table. They abandoned it. But, um, we tried, um, . But, and then, um, over time they became more and more capable and, uh, and trustworthy.
Um, and even my son now, he’s seven and we’re. He now bikes to his friend’s house. And, but um, we made really, um, a good connection with our neighbors. So she kind of checks in with me as well and lets me know he got here safely and, um, and then there was less communication going on because we’ve had that established that trust.
I already know that he’s. But the first couple times are, you know, I’m usually checking in a little bit more. Um, but he’ll come home and say, I had burgers for lunch today. And then the next day he is like, I had mac and cheese today. So, um, but it’s really neat once you can let go and they become very capable and independent with their play.
[00:34:19] Hunter: And I think, I know your answer is, but I imagine you don’t wanna send that seven year old off with a smartphone to communicate with.
[00:34:26] Angela Hanscom: Yeah, no, no. Usually I connect with the adults first. I just think it’s really respectful too to touch base with them and make sure they’re okay with it. And you know, sometimes you have to find like-minded people or you know, encourage them.
Sometimes people are a little bit afraid as well. Encourage them like to come, like send their children over to your house if they feel more comfortable with that, or vice versa. But a lot of it is creating that village for children too, and that that neighborhood or. You know, whoever’s in your vicinity as well.
[00:35:00] Hunter: Yeah. And dear listener, we did something similar for my daughter who’s 12 this year. She took, uh, started taking the, um, we have an e-bike. She started taking it to the barn. So the barn is, it’s not that far away, It’s like three miles away, but you have to kind of go down a big hill under the high, like there’s some major hills involved.
So the e-bike was really. Solution for her to do this, and she loves it, and so she doesn’t have a phone yet and. We sent her off and all we did, it’s so simple in some ways to like have a kid without a phone communicate with you because everybody else in the world has a phone. . I had to, I had to teach her how to use like the landline at the barn.
But so for the first, you know, for the first week or so she did that. She called us when she got there and we were like, Okay, great. You made it, you know. We’re good to know that, but it’s really simple to find for kids without a phone, to find a phone if they need to communicate with you, and if they, if you, they’ve memorized your
[00:36:04] Angela Hanscom: phone number.
Yes, absolutely. And it’s great life skills too, um, to have them check in or a parent check in and as well,
[00:36:13] Hunter: And the life skills of like, teach your kids how to cross the street, right? Like teach your kids, you know, if some, you know what to do if, if things happen. So you talk about, um, we wanna be, the kids could, should be spending time outside.
We want them playing outside. Do kid children get the same benefit from playing on a playground as they do from playing in the woods, Which is more beneficial.
[00:36:37] Angela Hanscom: Well, I’m a little biased. , I feel like playing in the woods offers, um, endless opportunities, whereas you’re a little bit restricted, again, on a playground, um, for, for many reasons.
But just to name a couple obvious ones in the woods, um, like we talked about, Stick has endless play opportunities and then, you know, Rocks, everything has endless play opportunities. So that’s a big one. And then you have all the sense senses are gonna be engaged in different ways. Um, and they’re constantly, There’s constant variation too when you play out in the woods, when versus playing on a playground.
For instance, if you’re going on monkey bars, um, you’re always gonna hit the same point of contact on your hands, and often you’re gonna get blisters because a certain part of your hand is strong. Another part remains weak, and then you get a break. Whereas if you’re climbing trees every time is different.
It’s like cross training. So you’re gonna put pressure on different parts of your hand and develop all of the skin and muscles, different parts of your upper body. So it’s really is like cross trending. So I think of playing outdoors and in the woods, you’re gonna get a more holistic approach, um, to, um, health and wellness for.
[00:37:57] Hunter: Now for the parent who’s worried about their kids falling down from the tree, , what do you say to that person?
[00:38:03] Angela Hanscom: Well, it’s funny because usually the kids that can’t, that, you know, you really don’t want high in the tree, can’t get up there. Like their spatial awareness is off. Um, their strength isn’t quite where it should be.
Uh, it’s usually the children that are really strong and capable can scale a tree pretty well. You do, you could teach ’em some safety skills, like obviously checking for branches, you know, um, making sure the limbs are alive. Um, you can set limits too. Like if you feel like a child is a little too high up there, you could calmly , um, say, you know, that’s, that’s good right there.
Why, why don’t you show me that you can down climb? Cuz climbing down is a harder skill. Um, but it’s okay. It’s okay to set limits. I think it’s just important to. Not set your bar too low for children cuz um, they really are more capable than we often realize.
[00:38:56] Hunter: That makes sense to me. I used to say, if you can get into the tree, you’re great.
Like I’m not gonna boost you into the tree. Like if you can get in okay, go for it. Like
[00:39:07] Angela Hanscom: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s a good point. Like, we never wanna put a child up in a tree cuz um, Yeah, that could be a very dangerous situation.
[00:39:17] Hunter: Yeah. And I used to say like, you know, how are you feeling up there? Are you good?
And if, if she got too high for me, I would say I feel really nervous. Just for me. , come down a little please. Okay, . Okay. So what if, what if parents live in an area that doesn’t provide easy access to
[00:39:36] Angela Hanscom: nature? So I guess I would, if I were them, I would just kind of keep in mind what is in my environment and try to use that.
Um, and even if it was in a city or if it was like, um, blacktop, I would, I would still try to find a way. There’s, there’s different initiatives where, you know, Big cities, they’ve shut down streets. You know, again, it’s getting to know who’s in your vicinity, establishing relationships and taking action to help children.
Um, I’ve heard of people in neighborhoods where they go and they, they’ve knocked on other people’s doors and say like, I want my children to be able to bike around with other children. Are you okay with that? And, you know, um, I think you, even if you’re in a city environment or a more urbanized. Even just getting outside and getting out there and moving around is real, is really, really beneficial.
So still trying to prioritize that. If you have natural parks, you know, trying to walk to the park with your child and allow them to play in that more natural space. Even in New York City, they have those, you know? So again, trying to find what is in your environment and what can you do. .
[00:40:50] Hunter: Okay. So you have, you have three kids.
I know you have a little one and two teenagers. Yep. And how did this affect the way you raised your kids? And I’m curious about that.
[00:41:04] Angela Hanscom: Yeah, so, well, my, my oldest, um, since I wrote the book, you know, the one that was five, she’s now 17. And then I’ve got a 14 year old daughter and I can see the effects of.
Having years of outdoor playtime on them. Now, um, my, my oldest is probably the perfect example because, you know, they, they grew up at TimberNook and creating societies. They would establish roles and spies and, you know, have wars out there. But she is, um, She has a very strong sense of who she is as a person and, um, she will set boundaries with people from having to like in person social connection with other children, which is becoming rare.
I mean, if a lot of kids are on screens these days, and, you know, so she’s very, um, she’s very kind, but she’s also. Very strong. You know, like she’ll, she’ll tell people like, That’s not okay, or, you know, I’ll do this, but I won’t do that. She’s just very confident with who she is as a person. She’s got a lot of freedom, but she’s also very trustworthy and she will check in with me, She’ll go visit.
Um, she now dries to visit a friend and will call me when she gets there hour, about five hour drive. And so, you know, she’s really earned that. That right to her roaming space is pretty big now. Um, but she’s very, um, capable. She’s an a, all a student. I think there are so many benefits to that, you know, thinking outside the box, playing creatively for hours, um, you know, having to be mentally flexible with other children’s ideas, negotiating, trading, all that stuff came into play as a young, a young.
[00:42:52] Hunter: How did screen time play into this, right? Like you are the founder of TimberNook. You’ve had, they have hours of outdoor play time with other kids. They’re in this ideal environment. How did what, what were sort of your policies around screen time for
[00:43:07] Angela Hanscom: your kids? Well, Neither of my daughters had a phone till high school, and I remember my oldest saying she lived under a rock and she was upset with me.
But she really, I think looking back, she really appreciates that cuz she again, knows how to personally interact with, with people, um, without hiding behind a screen. I’ve noticed that something that a lot of children are doing, um, it’s real. It’s, it fascinates me. But, um, and then like TV time, you know, we only.
We would do a movie as a family like once a week, but there was not a lot of screen time. I always felt like having too much screen time. Um, like we tried it for a little bit of having half an hour a day and they became entitled to have that before they would go play. And so we kind of just like let go of that and just had screen time as a special thing and tried not to make it a big deal.
Mm-hmm. and, um, yeah, it’s just that way they. All that, that opportunity to have a childhood, an old fashioned childhood,
[00:44:09] Hunter: that’s so, uh, it’s so beautiful. And I, I think that’s such a, I, I think that’s an incredible way for a child to be raised. And I imagine the listeners thinking like, that sounds great, but like, my husband is like on the phone and I’m on the phone and we’re doing these different things and it, and it’s not so easy.
So what are some of the baby steps, I guess that, that maybe. They can take what, what are some suggest action steps for people to take it forward?
[00:44:38] Angela Hanscom: Yeah, so I think my biggest, um, my, my first step would be to make sure you have time for outdoor play every day. And, you know, you could start with an hour and increase that each day.
That would be my biggest recommendation, um, is, um, time and then space. Like find a space for that to happen. Um, and then, yeah, limit.
[00:45:02] Hunter: I bet when it, that, when that happens, like if you find that hour of, I mean kids are so much like when behavior problems drop, you know, all that stuff drops when kids have the space to roam and they can choose what they wanna do and they’re allowed to get dirty and, you know, That kind of thing.
I guess we need like clothes that they can get dirty in. You need to let your kids get dirty, but also start with an hour outside time a day and maybe increase it. So that maybe means I’m, you know, simplify the schedule or. Allow more space in the schedule if you can.
[00:45:40] Angela Hanscom: Yeah. And then the other thing is I think even, um, making family time to be outside.
So if that’s going for a hike, um, together, going on a canoe trip, but make it part of your, uh, family life and that’s where you establish memories. Um, good memories for the children. Um, and again, going back to my daughters, like they, they now go on their own with other friends in the lake, dirt biking for hours, or they’ll go hiking on their own, but it like translates into their life as well as they get older.
[00:46:13] Hunter: Yeah. It becomes like just a habit, a way of being. Yes. Angela, thanks so much, um, for coming on and talking to me about this. I’ve been, we have the same publisher, , I’ve been noticing your book for a number of years. I’m like, Oh man, that looks so, um, so great. And I think that, um, I think that this is a real call to action, you know, to, for us to create those spaces for kids.
It’s, it’s really vital and we can see that it’s having, you know, the lack of that is having effects on kids now. Um, thank you so much for, for writing Balanced in barefoot founding Timber Neck for doing this, this work. I think it’s so needed and I, I really appreciate you doing that and taking the time to talk to us about it today on the.
[00:47:01] Angela Hanscom: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.
[00:47:08] Hunter: Thank you so much for listening. I hope you liked this episode. I loved connecting with Angela and I think it’s so, so important this. Issue of like having our kids be out in their natural environment. So if you enjoyed this episode, please make sure you share it on your Instagram stories and tag me in an at Mindful Mama mentor.
And I hope you have a great week, my friend. Thank you so much for listening. I’m so glad we could connect you. I hope you have lots of. Outside time connecting with your kids and time for peace and rest too. As always, I can’t wait to talk to you again next week. Na must day.