Heavy Work or is it Play?

by Heather Fox, Education Specialist, 
Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and Nature Explore
Teenagers today have fewer and fewer opportunities to play in wild, natural areas. They spend hours indoors and at school sitting quietly in front of computer screens. In their free time, many turn to video games or television for action and entertainment instead of venturing outdoors to create real adventures of their own. Not to say computer education, technology or an occasional hour in front of the television isn’t ok.  As all of us have likely experienced, but sometimes it’s just too much.


This week I saw some action and adventure occurring in my neighborhood and I wanted to take a closer look. Two boys, ages 12 and 13, tested their building and balancing skills as they created a hide-a-way made of heavy logs and thickets of branches. I listened to them negotiate the best way to construct a roof while one of the boys stood teetering on a very wobbly branch. They lifted long, heavy logs above their heads and rolled stumps larger than themselves into place.

When I talked with the boys they said they were building just for fun, but what I noticed was all the heavy work that was going on. “Heavy work” is a term used to describe lifting, pressing or leaning against weight or resistance. Occupational Therapists use many forms of heavy work with children and have found that it helps to develop healthy nervous systems. It allows children to practice body awareness, and can decreases anxiety levels. It can also help a distractible child become more focused or a lethargic child feel more energized.

Here are a few ideas of how to implement heavy work into your Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom: