"Go outside and play"

The phrase “Why don’t you go outside and play?” are timeless words from a mama’s mouth. But when it’s not a perfectly sunny summer day, there aren’t friends around, or they just want YOU, it can be a challenge to get your child through the door. I recently visited TimberNook, a child-led, sensory play program nestled in the woods about 15 minutes out of Saskatoon to learn a little more about them, why outdoor play is irreplaceable, and what we as parents can do to encourage it. Read on for a peek at their program and their top five suggestions on making our own backyards more engaging!

After a scenic drive, Paris and I arrived at the TimberNook site and he began exploring the big pile of sand with tools immediately.

After a scenic drive, Paris and I arrived at the TimberNook site and he began exploring the big pile of sand with tools immediately.

TimberNook’s program is weekly, with changing themes. This week was Apples. It began with a story around the campfire about apples where the kids could enjoy their snack from home as well as some freshly picked apples.

TimberNook’s program is weekly, with changing themes. This week was Apples. It began with a story around the campfire about apples where the kids could enjoy their snack from home as well as some freshly picked apples.

There was a kitchen set up with a variety of tools, pans, and mixtures. We parents just watched as our children navigated the social terrain on their own, figuring out how to use and share the available materials. It can be tempting to intervene (and sometimes it’s obvious you should), but step back a bit and it’s amazing to see them problem solve.

There was a kitchen set up with a variety of tools, pans, and mixtures. We parents just watched as our children navigated the social terrain on their own, figuring out how to use and share the available materials. It can be tempting to intervene (and sometimes it’s obvious you should), but step back a bit and it’s amazing to see them problem solve.

And although, to be honest, it could have JUST been a kitchen because the kids were SO into it, there were other stations set up including a place to play with dough which Paris experimented with a little. Okay, he just came to hunt for tools to take back to the kitchen.

And although, to be honest, it could have JUST been a kitchen because the kids were SO into it, there were other stations set up including a place to play with dough which Paris experimented with a little. Okay, he just came to hunt for tools to take back to the kitchen.

We ended with an apple roast, adding cinnamon and sugar much to Paris’ delight. Seeing the little ones paying such close attention to fire safety was the sweetest part of the day. I felt proud.

We ended with an apple roast, adding cinnamon and sugar much to Paris’ delight. Seeing the little ones paying such close attention to fire safety was the sweetest part of the day. I felt proud.

Here are TimberNook’s top reasons why children need the outdoors:

  • To help maintain a healthy weight. Kids are more motivated to move when they are outside in big spaces!

  • It supports vision. By having children focus up close and then far away in the woods it develops their visual skills needed later for reading

  • Mental health improves by improving mood and decreasing anxiety. Just 5 minutes outside decreases cortisol (stress) levels in the body.

  • Physical health improves. It encourages development of fine and gross motor skills through big body movement and small hand movements from picking up pinecones to carrying large sticks!

  • Cognitive health improves. Children have more opportunities to make decisions and problem solve because parents are not hovering over them.

  • Social skills are heightened. The levels of sharing and cooperation in outdoor play with other kids is incredible. 

  • Creativity is heightened. There are simply more opportunities for imaginative play.

Loose parts play allows for more creativity.

Loose parts play allows for more creativity.

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 TimberNook’s 5 ways to have a more engaging backyard (visit We Have Kids for more ideas):

  • Add dirt or sand!  It provides heavy work which is calming and can be used in endless ways.

  • Add natural elements such as wood chips, wood cookies, logs.

  • Add loose parts such as old kitchen cookwares, cardboard boxes, and planks,

  • Add pint size tools like small garden rakes, shovels, stubby tools

  • Add freedom. Let them play. Make suggestions or set up areas for them but overall, let them be free to play as they please. 

timbernook saskatoon review

Thanks to TimberNook Saskatoon for having Paris and I in and for sharing this great info and advice. Now, no matter the weather, let’s try to put it to use!

xoM