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​On your marks, get set, get ready for the school run

Posted by Sue Gascoyne on

On your marks, get set, get ready for the school run

After a 6 month break from moving anywhere far or fast, I’ve recently discovered the joys of walking to school. Recovering from a ruptured calf injury, I’ve had to learn how to walk again and by that I mean walk properly, without compensating with other parts of the body! My aim has been to quit the rather ungainly speed walking stature that I’d acquired, from rotating the hips instead of breathing and walking from the core. In fact I’ve been struck by this opportunity to re-experience what it is like to do something that we take for granted in children, walking. That means having to think about and look at every step, just to make sure that your foot is where it should be. Discovering the wonders of proprioception first hand (awful name but basically means understanding where our bodies are within space) has reinforced for me the amazing feat of mastery that infants and young children undergo as they develop from ‘helpless babies’ unsure of where their body starts and finishes, to rolling, crawling, sitting, standing, tottering and running children – a miracle of Mother Nature.

And so after months of feeling old and unable to run and play alongside my children as I would naturally do, I like a toddler have been set free on a journey of discovery, and what a time of year for that adventure. With blossom floating on the breeze scenting the air in wafts of perfume, a visual spectacle of colours and birdsong to warm the heart, that journey to school is fast becoming an opportunity to reawaken the senses. For children ‘nature is sheer sensory experience’ (Cobb,1977), and after being cooped up inside or in the bubble-like cocoon of a car, that precious time is an opportunity to breathe deeply and marvel about all that’s good in the world.

With so much of children’s lives a constant rush from one club to another, the precious walk to school marks a gradual transition between home and school/work. An opportunity to ponder, recharge batteries and prepare mentally for the day ahead. The balance between familiarity from the route and routine and differentness from ever changing natural and manmade events provides just the right mix for engaging and energising the brain. The route home is no less important. An opportunity for children to let off steam after the constraints of the classroom, adjust to changing roles, recharge and ponder on what to do next. As well as making great sense for the environment and the fight against obesity we know that helping children to forge links with nature from a young age sets them up for healthier and more fulfilling lives in the future, by developing an attachment with Mother Nature herself.

With adequate time, a constant challenge in our house, children can enjoy the luxury of tracing the silvery line of a snail, weaving their way through trees, carefully balancing along a wall, spinning round lampposts and pausing to pick up treasures or special stones, as children are prone to do. This could be a time for running, cycling or scooting on a scooter, what better way to feel the wind on your cheeks and rush of energy and measured fear that children need to experience? Judging by the number of parents seen sporting scooters on their shoulders returning from school my children are not the only ones who’ve got the scooter bug. We know that adults tend to overestimate the boisterousness of children’s play, thinking they’re far more active than they really are. I guess this is a result of our increasingly sedentary lifestyle? So a healthy breakfast, followed by the school run are great ways for setting children up not just for the day, but life generally.

Finally let us now forget the value of this precious time for talking with our children, and I do mean with rather than to! Research shows a proven link between the number and range of words used by a mother with their child, and their child’s success in later life, so any opportunities for conversations should be welcomed with open arms. The secret of course lies in children knowing that their views will be valued and listened to as well as having something to talk about like that silvery snail trail, unusual stone, funny shaped cloud or car zooming past on the school run.