“Forest school” is a concept that has been prevalent in other countries for decades, but the many benefits are now being researched and celebrated among educators and developmental specialists. Now, more than ever, children need sensory-rich environments, disconnection from technology, unrestricted play, and education about the community in which they live and practical development. Intuitively, we know we need this, but we rarely put it into action.
When we moved to the farm, we saw some major changes in our children: they slept better, they became stronger, they became more curious, and they were free to think, create, and explore. We saw our daughter transform from fear to bravery and broaden her horizons. We saw our son rest easier without fear, worry, or anxiety, and begin task deeper questions. We saw them get stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Then, we started inviting friends over. We saw teamwork and problem-solving among peers, increased confidence and self-efficacy, imagination and creativity, and an overall awe and wonder of God’s creation.
As the number of children with sensory issues and physical ailments continues to rise, it’s more important than ever that we start thinking about early prevention. Already, research is showing us the detrimental increase in therapy services for children: between 1991 and 2001, the number of 3-year-olds who had OT, PT, of ST services increased by 94% (Szabo, 2011). In 2011, 1 in 3 children were reported to have some sort of developmental disability (Journal of Pediatrics). In 2012, core strength of local elementary school students was tested, and they could not reach the baseline taken from the average core strength of children in the early 1980s (Hanscom). From clinical experience as a physical therapist, postural deficits have become the new norm, resulting in headaches, dizziness, nerve radiculopathies, neural tension, decreased ability to breathe correctly, poor gastrointestinal motility, tightness and stiffness throughout the body, and people feeling as though they cannot complete tasks due to pain. Children no longer know their own strengths and abilities because they do not participate in adventurous play resulting in clumsiness, falls, dislocations, fractures. Decreased play overall and connection to technology for up to 6 hours for some children each day has resulted in: obesity, a weakened immune system, difficulty tracking and scanning, emotional outbursts, anxiety, difficulty with self-regulation, decreased spirituality, and decreased sense of community.
We want to see our community genuinely healthier. We want to see them unplug from distractions and learn to seek God at an early age through listening to his Holy Spirit in the quiet of the great outdoors. We believe regular outdoor play and exploration is the antidote to many of the ailments listed above and a hopeful primer for the future of our kids.
We want to share this knowledge with the families around us. If we don’t, it is possible that we that we will have a much larger physical and mental pandemic on our hands long-term.
We want to see kids who are able to grow in every aspect in a healthy way and be ready for the world ahead of them. Growing, thriving, and engaging in the world in which they live.
What can a year on the farm do for your child?