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Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children
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Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  714 ratings  ·  114 reviews
In this important book, a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of TimberNook shows how outdoor play and unstructured freedom of movement are vital for children’s cognitive development and growth, and offers tons of fun, engaging ways to help ensure that kids grow into healthy, balanced, and resilient adults.

Today’s kids have adopted sedentary lifestyles filled wit
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 22nd 2016 by New Harbinger Publications
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4.02  · 
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 ·  714 ratings  ·  114 reviews

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Jun 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I'll be honest here and say that I skimmed a lot of this book, not because it wasn't informative but because they were preaching to the choir. I agree, children should move more. I am not surprised by all the supporting evidence laid out in this book. I think I was looking for more information on how to make it happen.
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the book I want to give all parents no matter how old their children are. This is the book I want all teachers and grandparents and anyone who has influence in a child to add to their nightstand.

An pediatric occupational therapist, the author argues for and explains the benefits of unstructured, child-directed outdoor play for children. Why are merry-go-rounds essential playground equipment and night games unstructured by adults the best for children with sensory issues? And steep slides
Lady Heather

This was a fascinating and educational read.
I agree that children spend far too much time indoors doing various things such as playing video games, playing on their phones or watching T.V. and that it has had an effect on how the brain now learns and deciphers information.
I also agree that children need to spend more time outside doing physical activity to stimulate muscles, to work on developing their fine motor and gross motor skills, get cardiovascular exercise, and release endorphins into th
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I got a lot more out of this book than I thought I would. When I started reading it there was a lot about problems in the classroom, studies that showed kids needed to move more, input from seasoned teachers, the authors experiences running a camp, and all of that is great. This book is well researched and well reasoned, the author makes her point clearly and concisely, but I didn’t feel like it pertained to me and my child. The Toddler has never been in a classroom, so the problems of school ag ...more
Ashley Thompson
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
The overall premise of this book is essentially throwing out every possible reason why children should play outside, in nature. I'm certainly a proponent of outdoor nature play and my own child gets plenty of it, but this book does contain some flaws.

The author, a pediatric occupational therapist, shares numerous reasons why a lack of outdoor play is essentially causing all sorts of problems in children. I have no doubt this is true to some extent, but she seems to conveniently leave out other
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
Maybe she has read CM. She agrees with her that children should have plenty of time to play outside free of adult intervention. Children just need time to play and to play deep. As most children do not get to play like this now days as they are inside sitting in school and don't get enough recess or on screens-we have seen this has impacted them in many ways. While I agree they need more play she only briefly mentions nutrition, emotional, support that children also need. Insightful reading.
Wendy Bunnell
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
You can agree with the author of a non-fiction book and still be bored. The content was fine, but seemed padded out to make it book length. I'll try to cull out some interesting items:

* The author has an interesting approach to sun screen. Let's just say, she's not huge for it.

* Modern playground equipment is boring as all heck, and hardly worth playing on. Yes, I agree.

* But, modern playground equipment tries to compensate for its colossal boringness with brash loud colors. This is terrible, as
Walter Underwood
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Richard Louv's book "Last Child in the Woods" made the case that the outdoors is good for you. Angela Hanson, an occupational therapist, makes the case that we injure and maybe even disable children when we have them spend so much time indoors, on "safe" play equipment, and in supervised pay.

We even need new terminology to describe this. Container Baby Syndrome (CBS) describes the problems caused by spending too much time in "baby containers", like child seats, walkers, strollers, and so on. The
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the essential science behind Free Forest School. After reading it, I will be kicking my kids outside by themselves even more. There is one study that says if you are outside for at least 14 hours per week, then young eyes have more of a chance to fight myopia. I don’t think its a cure all, some are destined for it, but perhaps if one can help a child have better eyes for longer, then why not. And I have literally seen a lot of this books contents in action every Tuesday with FFS so it wa ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I agree very much with her assertion that kids need as much outside free play as possible, but I feel like she spent way too much time trying to convince me. I would guess that most people who pick up this book are already convinced. I was hoping for practical advice for city and apartment dwellers and there wasn't much. I did come away with a couple ideas so it wasn't a waste to read.
Kelcey Murdoch
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book both from a professional standpoint and from how I want to parent. I strongly agree that there are so many benefits from kids engaging in unstructured play, especially in nature.
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Once I got past the feelings of immense guilt and regret, I was able to absorb some helpful takeaways. This is a great book for parents of babies, toddlers and preschoolers, but still a nice enough reminder of the importance of nature-based free play for older children (and parents of older children!). I skimmed the early part of the book with the list of all that’s wrong with children and parenting in our modern society, I’ve read plenty about that. This book has good basic info on sensory diso ...more
Jun 14, 2017 added it
I had been wanting to read this book since it was published and was so excited to find it at our library. This is a topic I'm passionate about so I was eager to get started. Hanscom makes many valid points and provides plenty of research to back up her philosophy. I was disappointed, however, because, having read numerous books and articles on the value of outdoor free play, I felt there was nothing new presented.
I would recommend this book to parents and educators who are just discovering the
May 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
I agree that children do not spend enough time outside or in independent play, but the examples and suggestions in this book are unrealistic. I would love for my children to build forts in the forest, walk barefoot along moss-covered logs, and spend 5-8 hours A DAY outside, but I live in a suburb in the desert.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written case for the outdoors and free range kids written by an occupational therapist.
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
hanging upside down and spinning helps with vestibular regulation--of course!!!
Whole And
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: education, nature
If you are coming across the concept of outdoor play and its importance for the first time, you may find this book interesting. However, if you already know and have done the reading and research, this is not the book for you. I found this book a light summary of current information out there about the importance of outdoor play and not particularly insightful. I found many contradictions in the book such as noting the importance of unsupervised play but the author's programming has rules about ...more
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is great! It is a clear and concise explanation of the benefits of free outdoor play for children of all ages. The author lays out the sensory benefits of outdoor play and how sitting for long hours is extremely hard on all bodies, but especially on young bodies. I recommend this book for anyone who has kids or works with kids.
Little Feather
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It has really changed my life and my children's lives.

I've always thought I got my kids outside quite a bit and that my kids were pretty healthy in that regard. But reading this book opened my eyes to see just how critical outdoor play and exploration is to a child's mental and physical development and well-being.

This book changed some fundamental beliefs that I had. I felt that the idyllic childhood my grandparents and parents enjoyed of roaming free and playing outside was
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
With growing children comes a growing need to find new and appropriate outdoor play ideas for bigger and bigger kids. This title caught my eye and I requested it from the library. It was worth a good skim, but nothing really earth shattering was learned.

The first half of the book reads like an OT skills chart, walking the reader through the connection between moving ones body and the development of the brain, muscles, etc. The author assumed the reader had a child who had been diagnosed with so
Emily M
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting, nonfiction
I came into this book predisposed to agree with everything she said, so it wasn't earth-shattering for me. As a victim of helicopter neighboring and constant critiques of my decision to let my children play outside unattended (on our dead end pad on a mountaintop in a gated campus in an extremely low-crime town), I've often wished I had some hard-core studies to shove in the faces of my neighbors who truly believe I'm neglecting and harming my children by not loitering within arm's reach every h ...more
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book gave me a better insight into the benefits of outdoor play that is completely free and unstructured as told from the perspective of a Pediatric Occupational Therapist. Angela Hanscom works with children who have various sensory motor and behavioral challenges. What she discusses in this book is how these sensory/motor/behavioral challenges are increasing rapidly since the 1980's and how children don't measure up to the then standards in physical strength, coordination, balance, - not t ...more
Stephanie Coleman
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was packed with tons of good information on why we as parents need to let loose and let our kids explore their surroundings. I'm not sure I completely buy into the free-range parenting theory, but to an extent I do after reading this book. I've found that my prematurely born toddler has grown and become so much more coordinated after we moved to a home that had a backyard where she can explore on her own. She climbs, digs, jumps, and runs on her own and has become very competent at ent ...more
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am 100% in favour of children spending as much time outdoors, climbing trees and running barefoot in the grass.
Therefore I did enjoy this book.
Some of the theories she presents on how this lack of play is affecting children takes things a little too far.
overall a good read.
I do notice with my own children that when they are cooped up inside too long they go crazy.
I think this is an issue that many primary schools need to address more also, there are some children that need more outside time th
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I thought this would be an informative book for any parent who is concerned about their child and how they are growing up. It seems like all the advice should be common sense. Let children play.... sadly today it isn't common sense or common place. We live in a neighborhood cul de sac. Including my 4 children there are 14 children on our end of the neighborhood. You'd never know it by going outside and looking around though. I'm trying to make it a point to force my kids to be kids more and spen ...more
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
I agree with the overall idea that kids play less than they used to, let alone outside versus in. Hanscom cites quite a few studies and statistics, as well as personal observations and interviews to support her argument that outdoor free-play will (or at least help to) solve the myriad physical, mental, and emotional issues on the rise in today's children (e.g., weakness, poor coordination, poor concentration, ADHD, anxiety, etc., etc.) resulting from over-stimulated, over-scheduled, yet simulta ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
Really, really, REALLY good information in this book. It definitely taught me a lot about how children grow, learn and develop; in turn, how our current culture of liability and dependence on test scores are effecting that. The author is clearly and authority in the subject, and has done her homework on anything that is outside her expertise. I would love to visit Timbernook one day, it sounds like my childhood adventures at my aunt's house. I hope I can provide that type of opportunity for my c ...more
Charly Troff (ReaderTurnedWriter)
I really loved this book. I would definitely recommend it to all parents. It was all about the benefits of letting kids play outside, and especially of letting kids have free play outside. It emphasized letting them play for hours and the need to let them take (smallish) risks and not have very much adult interference (this is obviously within reason). It was an especially good read for me because this isn't something that comes naturally for me. I am really good at things like reading to my kid ...more
Katy Emanuel
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great read and one every parent should consider reading. It would be great if educators and preschool providers read this book as well to be able to incorporate some of the suggestions in this book. Great suggestions to help kids cope and function in today's classroom settings and what things can be done to help children adapt or adjust when they are struggling.

This book is written by a paediatric occupational therapist and with great insight into why the demands for OT's has increased and what
Laura Icardi
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book perfectly encapsulates my parenting manifesto. Get your kids outside and leave them alone. Let them take (reasonable) risks. The author clearly outlines why these two principles must be made reality in our children's lives, and I think this should be required reading for all the helicopter moms, nanny states, and public school influencers. I loved this book so much, I suggested that my local library order it for others to be able to borrow and read (I bought mine, and I'm glad, because ...more
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“Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children,” will be released April 22nd, 2016 from New Harbinger in the U.S.

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