Photos by Sheryl Campbell
Children have never moved as little as they move today! And neither have adults! Katy Bowman’s latest book, Grow Wild, is based on the undeniable premise that we are becoming a hazardously sedentary society. And that this lack of movement is harming our children.
Have you and your children spent the current pandemic hunched over your computers for work and school in the “safe” comfort of your internet-connected home? Does it often seem too hot or too cold to try to do anything outside? Have more of your external excursions – from shopping to travel to enjoying the arts – taken place online this year? You aren’t alone. This has happened to all of us. I kept feeling consummately silly sitting still in an armchair while reading Katy’s insightful book about movement. I found myself walking around in the house and yard while reading and dictating notes.
It matters significantly to our health yet human movement is in a state of decline. Now even more so during the pandemic. Our environment used to prompt us to move – now it encourages us to sit still. Katy asserts that our convenience-driven culture is a contributing factor to many of today’s childhood health issues. “Modern food, clothing, education, games, homes, and travel have become attainable with almost no movement of our bodies required.”
Grow Wild encourages and exhorts adults to model enjoying movement, especially outside, with the children in their lives. Being outside places us in a movement rich environment, while being in direct contact with nature is critical to our overall health. Already at the turn of the 20th century, Charlotte Mason developed her early childhood educational theories with a core tenant of “never be indoors when you can rightly be without”. Generations of home educators have learned the wisdom of that command. Children are able to move, observe, and focus more fully within a nature-filled environment of permissive movement.
With beautiful and engaging photographs of real people applying the principles of growing wild, the book directly models simple activities in a way that children can emulate just from looking at the pictures. It is our job to give them permission to try, and an environment that gives them the ability to succeed. Grow Wild is not a book of exercises. Rather it is a helpful reference for creating active spaces for children to move in throughout their ordinary day.
Katy gives many simple ideas for restructuring your living spaces, rethinking how you get from one place to another, and how to dress your children for movement success. She has organized the book into relevant chapters for the different environments your child experiences daily: culture, clothing, food, home, education, activity, and celebration. Each chapter addresses the importance of each environment and suggests changes that you can make within each one to get your children (and you) moving more.
Encourage Movement and Change Their Lives
Learn to think creatively and make some of these small changes in your everyday life to naturally start moving more and create a movement rich environment for your children.
Change their culture from one in which stillness and silence is required to one in which they are given direct permission to move.
- Walk with them to school rather than putting them on the bus
- Encourage them to jump up and down while waiting in lines with you
- Go outside with them every day
Help them to select clothing for more movement.
- Have them try different moves while trying on clothing to see if they can move in every direction
- Opt for layers rather than heavy single pieces in winter
- Get them out of shoes and barefoot with regularity
Involve them in food selection be it in the grocery store or choosing seeds for the garden.
- Cook outdoors more often
- Have lots of picnics
- Plant a vegetable garden
Reshape your home around movement vs. convenience.
- Plan activities on coffee tables to encourage squatting or sitting cross legged
- Set up a short jumping-off box in the middle of the room
- Set up hanging/pullup bars in doorways
The key to a movement rich lifestyle is fulfilling multiple categories of needs at the same time. Katy calls this “stacking”. She includes work, food, family, rest, play, community, movement, learning, and nature as needs categories. For example, think of all the different ways you could ride a bike to increase your movement:
- Riding a stationary bike indoors would move your muscles and increase your heart rate
- Riding around the neighborhood with your children would fill your need for community and family while getting you to move more
- Riding to work would meet your need to provide for your family as you move
- Riding a back country road brings you in closer contact with nature
Movement is necessary for every one of all ages. Children need it to build their bodies, adults need it to maintain their flexibility and strength, and senior adults need it to remain mobile. When my husband’s partially-paralyzed father lived with us we regularly took to the trail in a comical movement train: Papa with his feet strapped onto a huge three-wheeled bike with my husband jogging at his side, our son on his small bicycle with training wheels while I brought up the rear on my roller blades. Singing as we traveled (moving our lungs), we always came back refreshed and feeling closer as a family.
Read the Book!
“It used to be that the environment demanded our movement and our body needed it; now just our body needs it.” Our bodies’ demands upon us for good oxygen intake, proper circulation, lung capacity, and musculoskeletal strength have not diminished. Only our demands upon our bodies have changed. It’s time we changed that. For our health, and for the health and happiness of our children. It’s time to get moving again!
Katy’s approach to movement education is to “teach people how to see for themselves the opportunities to move more, as well as to ensure they have the skills necessary to take those opportunities”. Trained as a biomechanist, she is a bestselling author, speaker, and a leader of the Movement movement through which she is changing the way we think about our need for movement. In Grow Wild: The whole-child, whole-family nature-rich guide to moving more, Katy will convince you of our need to move and the improvement it will bring to your children’s lives.
Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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