Run with your kids in ‘dirt preschool’
As children of the ’80s, the neighborhood kids and I played house on a mango tree, encountering higad and hantik, picking aratiles from other trees, and sliding down rooftops with only a flimsy gutter to break our momentum.
We biked at peak UV-ray hours, sans helmets, knee pads or sunblock, in the process ending up with scrapes, bruises and head lice. We also buried our pets in vacant lots, using our hands to dig up the soil.
Today those trees and games are gone. While my own kids get to play outside, they haven’t enjoyed the same unbridled sense of freedom I did.
So, when I saw a Facebook post on my feed about Nuun Dirt Preschool, a trail running camp for kids 5-12 years old (“where kids discover the joy of running and being in the great outdoors through games, group activities and fun challenges”), I just had to sign up my family.
My husband Jason leaves for work early and comes home very late, so we are very protective of our weekends and make sure that we spend it with the kids.
On April 1, a Saturday, we woke up early to join 26 other children and their parents at Nuun Dirt Preschool at Camp N, Nuvali, Laguna, led by mountain endurance athlete Miguel “Ige” Lopez.
He is part of Team Salomon Pilipinas, a Suunto-sponsored athlete and running coach.
“Nuun Dirt Preschool is the first trail running camp for kids in the country,” said Maui Lopez, Dirt School cofounder and Ige’s wife.
We arrived a bit early. While waiting, we explored the place and tried out the Aerial Walk (use of the Camp N attractions were included in the Dirt Preschool fee).
After some running drills, coach Ige took the kids through a trial run of the obstacle course before the real race.
It was a fun mix of parents hand-holding their preschoolers, with the more confident children zooming through like future elite athletes.
For someone who doesn’t really get much chance to “run wild and free,” 6-six-year-old son Jack was so happy and relieved that he went through the course with such certainty —getting up when he fell, then just powering through the challenges by himself, even as my heart would skip many beats.
After a short break, the kids were grouped into their respective teams for a relay race through the trail. Each segment was probably about 400 meters, over a little bridge and brook and through some tree cover.
It was a lot of fun seeing the kids running with their parents, cheeks all ruddy from the exertion and the heat.
Homemade snacks like sandwiches, bananas and cold chocolate milk were distributed to the kids. Nuun electrolyte drinks were also available, while Ige gave a short talk about taking care of the environment.
Certificates of participation were handed out, along with raffle prizes from event sponsors. The activity was done by 10 a.m.
Said Maui: “We dedicate the Nuun Dirt Preschool weekend to the parents who did an awesome job at bringing their kids outdoors and letting them experience the freedom of movement and the thrill of adventure.”
Family and nature
Need more reasons for signing up? Maui pointed out:
1) Our children need this. Since they are rapidly growing and developing, they need physical exercise and a chance to use their muscles to run, swing, jump, skate and ride a bike, and to be outdoors, breathe in fresh air and get their natural glow from sunshine (appropriately protected from the sun’s rays, of course). They experience freedom of movement when they are outside, and find physical activities interesting and challenging.
2) Nature allows children to experience not just the world around them, but themselves. According to naturalist Stephen Moss: “Climbing a tree is about learning how to take responsibility for yourself, and how, crucially, to measure risk for yourself. Falling from a tree is a very good lesson in risk and reward.”
When they climb trees, they learn how to estimate the height at which they know they can confidently jump from. When children play in a swing, they learn balance and coordination, as they engage hold on and find the rhythm of moving back and forth.
3) Outdoor games help develop the children’s independence, self-confidence and satisfy their interest in exploration.
4) It reduces stress (from schoolwork, after-school activities, the household, from parents/siblings). Spending time outside, feeling the wind on their faces and sun on their skin, hearing their own heart pounding and own breathing, and seeing wide open spaces is a good outlet for stress. It is relaxing and healing, especially for children.
5) It provides vitamin D which helps prevent future bone problems, diabetes and heart disease.
6) On a personal note: It is much easier to feed the kids or put them to sleep after they have played outside. “Walang picky eater sa batang naglaro sa labas. At pagsakay pa lang sa kotse, tulog na.”
7) It makes for great childhood memories more so when done with their parents.
The next Nuun Dirt Preschool Weekend will be in May. Visit manilaboxoffice.com/dirt-school/; like Nuun Dirt School PH on Facebook; follow @dirtschoolph on Instagram.
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