Every Week For Two Years, I’ve Taken My Kids Into The Woods For Risky Play
By Rachael Watts
PHOTO © ch_ch/Twenty20
May 3, 2019
Every Thursday morning for the past two years — rain, shine or snow — you can find me and my kids dressed and ready to meet with friends at a forest, park or the beach.
It’s not always perfect (cue wet mitts and whining for granola bars), but over time I’ve seen resilience develop....
Getting out the door is easier some days than others (especially in winter), but once we’re there, this group is pure magic.
Our group was started on Facebook by another mum who organized a forest play meet-up that got wildly popular. After the first session in the woods, a few of us kept up through the winter and have continued on during every season for the past two years. Sometimes we last for 30 minutes in pouring rain before heading to the local bakery/coffee shop and sometimes our outing lasts for three or four hours (typically when the sun is shining and the whining is at a minimum).
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Knowing we’re meeting our friends gets us out the door. I don’t love struggling my kids into their snowsuits, but when we’re outside it’s always worth it. The fresh air makes everyone feel good and I notice better moods all day. The benefits of an outdoor meet-up go far beyond fresh air. The kids love being outside where the rules are sparse and their imaginations can run wild.
The fresh air makes everyone feel good and I notice better moods all day.
That’s the great thing about our particular group: we’re all on the same page about what the kids can do (which is pretty much anything as long as they aren’t hurting anyone and can still see us). They engage in risky play, which is awesome for building confidence and resilience. They work together to find out how to do something, they help and encourage one another and they fight and solve problems with each other. They’ve developed strong bonds because of this. They are all different ages as well, which means the younger kids can stretch their social skills and the older kids are able to provide a leadership role and work on their empathy.
It’s not always perfect (cue wet mitts and whining for granola bars), but over time I’ve seen resilience develop which I've chalked up to a combination of age, visiting the same familiar spots and following the example of the older kids who seem to have tireless energy.
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As for the parents, we’re all at different stages in parenting and life, but have seen each other through moves, pregnancies, difficulties with kids, schooling options and so much more. Each person provides a unique perspective and experience, and I truly don’t know what I did without these fabulous people to parent alongside. Our friendship extends beyond our children and they are my go-to people when I need to vent or bounce a problem off someone. It’s a truly non-judgmental zone, which is not always easy to find in this age of parenting. We don’t all have the same parenting style, but we really do accept each other’s way of doing things.
This group is so welcoming, funny and wonderful to be around. My kids and I both look forward to Thursday mornings. We get to visit some of our favourite outdoor spots, we get to move our bodies, but, most importantly, we get to hang out with some of our best friends.