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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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,600 ratings  ·  242 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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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  1,600 ratings  ·  242 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. ...more
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
Liz De Coster
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: family, nonfiction
I found some of Hanscom's arguments more compelling than others, there were a few sources that I didn't find particularly credible or were subject to a lot of interpretation (newspaper articles, blogs, etc.) I find her overall argument(s) plausible, but I also tend to be skeptical of the "this one weird trick can fix your kids" advice, so this book was in a weird middle ground where I wanted to listen but I didn't find the book persuasive.
Also, I wanted like 20% more practical advice (like spinn
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
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
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
May 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
The premise of the book is great, but the execution is less than. If I could choose, this book would have maybe 1/5 about the benefit of outdoor play and the rest would be tangible ideas that a typical family can implement: lots of material about how to foster creative outdoor play with simple materials in your own yard for different ages (this would comprise several chapters and the bulk of the book), plus how to use the green spaces & playgrounds around you, how to evaluate camps/schools/child ...more
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
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. ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good information for every parent to know about how playtime outdoors is beneficial for kids!
Angelina Gearke
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Every person who cares for a child should read this inspiring and practical book.
Sep 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Let your kids have as much unstructured play time outside as possible. (Now you don't have to read the book) ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really 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. ...more
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
Corneliu Dascalu
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A bit repetitive, but the basic ideas are sound.

The importance of children spending time outdoors is generally accepted. The author explains why time in nature, independent play and risk taking are essential for children's mental and physical development, based on her own experience and numerous studies she cites throughout the book.
Anna Trahan
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: want-to-own
This was a helpful book that helped to explain the importance of movement in a child’s development. The author explains the importance of letting children take risks with physical movement, develop resilience and imagination by playing independently without adult guidance, and most importantly letting kids be bored. It has inspired me to incorporate more movement activities/breaks into my therapy sessions.

There were a lot of practical suggestions for people who live in the country or suburbs, b
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.
Teo 2050


Hanscom AJ (2016) (06:27) Balanced and Barefoot - How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children

Foreword (Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, The Nature Principle, and Vitamin N)

• How Playing in Nature Contributes to Healthy Children
• What This Book Can Do for You

1. Why Can’t My Child Sit Still?
• Does My Child Need Therapy?
• Why Can’t My Child Pay Attention?
• Why Can’t My Child Physically Keep Up?
• • Poor Post
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.
Mar 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have always loved outdoor play with my children, so this basically validates my life 😉 This will be my go-to gift for all parents now! I found it fascinating, educational, and important. In our pursuit of keeping our kids so safe, we are often limiting their physical, emotional, auditory, visual, and psychological development. Wow. What a paradigm shift.

I wish I had read this seven years ago when I became a parent, but it's not too late to remove "be careful!" from my momma vernacular and enc
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
Lauren Allen
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was ok
I loved the early chapters of the book and the information about how outdoor play impacts development. The rest of the book felt less informative. It felt like the advice given sometimes lacked any real solutions to the systemic problems that the author touched on (oversafe playgrounds, phased out recess, etc).
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written case for the outdoors and free range kids written by an occupational therapist.
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a good reminder to let. My. Kids. Play. Outside!
I need to be better about letting them do their own thing and going outside more.
Janet Smoly
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book giving concrete evidence on why children should spend more of their childhood playing outside. The informs was well presented and easy to read. A must for every parent.
Lynn Bin
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the explanation of development differences of play in nature compared to manmade/adult organized spaces. At times, overly alarmist and repetitive. Still great read for parents of babies, toddlers, and school age kids.
Yvonne Reynders
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
An insightful read. The information presented in this book got me thinking more about the differing sensory needs of children.
Mar 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: compelling
"Manageable risk and independent, imaginative play are essential not only to physical health but to the development of self-directed young minds." (viii)

"...our society changed pants sizes to accommodate a more obese society, and [an occupational therapist friend of the author] was worried that we were going to do the same thing with standardized testing for children - change the 'norm' to accommodate weaker children." (15) // brackets added

"Tight muscles around the neck and head can be caused b
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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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