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Susquehanna Life

Family Life: Creative Outlets for Kids

Sep 04, 2020 11:06AM ● By Jennifer Pencek
At a time when programming geared toward children is highly structured, leaving youngsters little time to think for themselves, there is a move in the other direction.

In fall 2019, Sierra Keller and two other group leaders from the Navigators scouting organization spent a few hours in the woods with a handful of their scouts for a nature-based program created by TimberNook, a national program that creates child-directed outdoor programs designed to challenge the mind, body and senses through play that encourages children to think and have fun in new and creative ways.  As Keller watched her own son Jack, 7, interact with his peers and nature, she became a fan of the program.

“Children, and all people, significantly benefit from time outdoors,” Keller said. “It’s scientifically proven to improve health, social skills, creativity and so much more. I was drawn to TimberNook’s program for our scouts because I feel their hands-off approach is crucial to providing kids the opportunity to be challenged, practice problem solving and build a confident, positive relationship with nature.” 

Positive orientation

TimberNook, with Pennsylvania locations in State College and Lancaster, has drawn in families and groups looking for a mix of creative outlets for youth. The program uses a step-back and tune-in approach, giving children the opportunity to explore and engage without constant interference. The Central Pennsylvania chapter in State College, until its recent closing due to financial and family constraints, served roughly 100 youth and offers programs for children ages 18 months to 12 years. 

Sue Ashead, former owner and director of TimberNook of Central Pennsylvania, was introduced to TimberNook while taking a continuing education course. “TimberNook was founded by an occupational therapist and the course struck a chord with me,” she said. “Playing outside, moving loose parts, and having adults step back builds physical skills as well as social emotional skills; it is so much more fun and child directed than other ways of addressing these issues. TimberNook is for all kids, and all kids can benefit from this type of play, as well as having tons of fun.”

Programs involve using outdoor and wooded spaces, which Ashead said allows room to move and explore. Many of the programs are three hours in length, giving time for participants to really decide what they want to do and have the time to do it.

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