TimberNook Day 1: Why is Play SO Necessary?

Why is Play SO Important? Why is TimberNook SO Necessary?

We kicked off our first round of TimberNook camps with an adults-only Holi experience. Read all about it here, and be sure to check out the photos – aren’t they awesome?

As we’ve been talking about the TimberNook experience after camp each day, so many thoughts have been rushing through my mind. It can be difficult to express the true depth and value of the play experiences our campers are having, but it’s my hope that these blogs can give you a glimpse into how important and how necessary these experiences are for our children (and our dogs, and us adults!).

When I talk about the therapeutic nature of these experiences, “therapeutic nature” isn’t meant to be a buzzword without meaning.

This isn’t just playing in the mud. It’s a meaningful experience in the total development of the child.

With that in mind, let’s dive into Day 1 of TimberNook Orlando: Jack and the Beanstalk.

Play and the Whole Child: Therapeutic Benefits

In Monday’s camp, we started off by meeting “The Girls,” aka Doglando’s chickens.

Then, we read “Jack and the Beanstalk”. We made our very own giant feet, and wore them out into the woods to stomp on everything: FEE FI FO FUM!

Then we hid golden eggs and made a cafe, and planted beanstalks seeds everywhere. How does all of that benefit the children? I’m glad you asked:

Exploring new things and gaining independence 

Does exploration of new, novel, and perhaps frightening experiences benefit a child’s development?

… ABSOLUTELY!

For many of the kids who came to camp on Day 1, the main benefit they experienced was simply getting out of their element to play and explore the world around them.

As we acted out Jack and the Beanstalk we spent time exploring in the words. Every single child, in some variation, said things like:

“My teacher said there are bears in the woods.”

“My mom said there are snakes in the forest.”

Overcoming those thoughts and feeling safe was a huge achievement, and it leads to some important questions we should be asking ourselves:

Are these things really dangerous? Why exactly are they potentially dangerous?

Many times, the danger is imagined. I’ve seen it time and time again with children and with dogs, especially those with sensory limitations.

For example, we’ve had lots of deaf and blind dogs come to Doglando over the years. Their awareness was astounding. They’d know when they were transitioning into the big field because they could smell the other dogs moving. It was almost as if the smell was traveling through a tunnel. The movement became so linear. These dogs followed their noses and got to where they needed to be.

If we had tried to manage that movement in a more invasive way, simply because the dog was deaf and blind, that dog wouldn’t have been as successful. Touch would have spooked the dog because it’s so invasive, too.

Children and dogs alike will learn how to navigate their world, even if they have sensory limitations. If we give them the freedom to develop their other senses, that is. It just might look a little different to us because our own senses have developed differently. That’s okay!

We need to give children, dogs, and even ourselves the opportunity to build independence. For example, when the kids first came to camp they thought the mud was totally yucky. After they saw us adults going in, playing and having a great time, they saw that it was actually fun. When they were ready for the experience they went in enthusiastically.

And that’s what building independence is all about.

Gross and Fine Motor Coordination

Gross motor coordination involve big movements, like rolling around in the mud, standing up, running around, and other motions that involve the use of large muscle groups. Fine motor coordination involves small movements, like holding a fork or planting seeds.

Building our castles and beanstalks required big and small muscles alike.

Strength

Building our castles and beanstalks also required strength, believe it or not! Everyone carried their materials from one area to the other, ran around in the woods, pulled themselves up and onto different things, and other activities that involved strength.

The kids were hauling lots of stuff around. They exerted their muscles and were able to test and learn how physically capable they truly are.

Balance and Coordination

Kids were moving around the grounds, climbing over trees, roots, through the mud, and on different things.

Here’s a brief intro to how our balance system works:

“Balance and equilibrium help us stay upright when standing and know where we are in relation to gravity. Our balance system also helps us walk, run, and move without falling. Balance is controlled through signals to the brain from your eyes, the inner ear, and the sensory systems of the body (such as the skin, muscles, and joints). This balance system is also known as the vestibular system.”

Balance, like any other skill, requires practice… even for us adults, as we learned from Sunday’s Holi camp.

That’s it for TimberNook Orlando Day 1! Check back with the blog to read more about the rest of the week. I’ve been so amazed at the changes we’ve been seeing in our campers, and I think you will be, too.

How often do you practice your own balance, strength, coordination, and more? What daily life activities do you think helps you hone those skills for you and your children? Share your thoughts in the comments!