It’s not just adults who need to move their DNA, kids do too. Katy Bowman welcomes TimberNook’s Angela Hanscom to the podcast to talk about what parents can do right now to help kids also have a movement-rich life—and why it matters to their development. Plus, Katy answers questions on massage and hair loss and growth, and Suzanne Solsona of MyMayu talks about why her company makes minimal boots for kids, why its expanding to making boots for adults, too—and what MyMayu means!
00:02:27 – Reader question – Hair loss and movement – Jump to section
00:07:41 – Meet Angela Hanscom – Jump to section
00:16:16 – Action Item #1 & 2 – Jump to section
00:22:49 – Action Item #3 & 4 – Jump to section
00:28:39 – Action Item #5 & 6 – Jump to section
00:40:44 – Meet Suzanne of MyMayu.com – Jump to section
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
The Dynamic Collective
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KATY: Hello! I am Katy Bowman, and this is the Move Your DNA podcast. I am a biomechanist and the author of Move Your DNA and seven other books on movement. And on this show, we talk about how movement works on the cellular level, how to move more and to move more of your parts, and how movement works in the world, also known as Movement Ecology. All bodies are welcome here – are you ready to get moving?
KATY: As important as it is for us grown-ups to move our DNA, it’s really vital that the littles also move theirs, as often and as diversely as they can. So much of the modern western world in which we live is really structured to remove opportunities for both children and adults to get out and move.
And I know we’ve seen a slow disappearance of school playground equipment as well as time for being on the aforementioned playground. And if you couple empty schoolyards with school rooms and homerooms in our own homes in which sitting down and being still are highly prized and rewarded skills, even the incidental movement kids might have naturally had access to is disappearing rapidly.
So today on Move Your DNA, we’re gonna talk about actions you can take now to help them move their DNA. My guest is Angela Hanscom, who is the author of Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children
And Angela has some solutions up her sleeve, and you know I do too. So I’m looking forward to that conversation and to connecting the dots between Angela’s work and my own. These are dots that align on movement, naturally.
So that’s coming up, but first, let me reach into the Move Your DNA mailbag.
Today’s question portion of the podcast is brought to you by the Dynamic Collective which is made up of MyMayu boots for kids, Softstar Shoes, Unshoes Sandals, Earth Runners Sandals, and Venn Design. These are all small companies whose values are aligned with my own and I use their products and believe in them. And I’m happy to have their support for this podcast. Later on, today learn more about MyMayu, who makes minimal boots for kids.
Katy, I was searching online for some tips on how to minimize hair loss and came across this study. The hypothesis implies that pattern hair loss is partly caused by not enough movement in particular areas of the scalp. Here’s an excerpt from the study.
“Organs, tissues, and cells are constantly exposed to mechanical forces and subsequently react to them. For example, blood vessels are subject to shear stress of blood flow, bones receive pressure due to weight bearing, cartilage is exposed to hydrostatic pressure by weight bearing, and hypertrophic scars develop with increased tension to the wound. We hypothesize that scalp massage is a way to deliver mechanical forces to the scalp including epidermis, dermis, skin appendages, blood vessels, and nerves.”
While reading this, I thought about how you always encourage us to “move more and move more of you”. Can we hear more about your thoughts and insights on this study and maybe massage in general? Thanks, Ryan
And so in general. In general, massage is awesome. I think there are the movement benefits which are pressure related movements, but also I think we’ll see touch defined as a nutrient in the future. So many people live alone, in lives that not only include very little movement, they include very little touch. So body work, like movement, is a huge category. It would take a ton of investigation to figure out how each modality works, what it provides, etc. But, I am almost 100% guaranteed to be at the front of a bodywork line. So that’s just a little tip about me.
Regarding hair loss and movement … and I’ve read papers on this before and PS the title of this paper that he’s referenced is Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue.
I’ve read papers on hair follicle movement or agitation and that the theory surrounding hair loss in some/most cases has to do with hair muscle (or hair follicle muscle) atrophy. The muscle atrophies and then maybe it’s just not able to hold the hair. I’m not sure if that’s why it falls out or if it’s not growing or what. Because that’s not my field. But it has to do with muscular atrophy. You’ve got a ton of muscles all over your body that aren’t just those ones we work in the gym. And every hair follicle has its own.
Anyhow, just a few years back – I could have sworn I talked about it on the show, but maybe I didn’t – I started growing out my own hair after reading that. I wanted to see what a natural hair follicle load would be like. And if we think of the natural movement of the hair muscles it’s bending underneath the weight of the hair, of course, your hair moves the place it attaches when you’re moving, so I’m not sure if sitting there with long hair – not sure if that’s really just your hair sitting too. Some casts for hair follicles then, off the top of my head, (sorry I couldn’t help it), could be: cutting your hair, ponytails or other bound hairstyles, hats. Right? These would all be hair muscle casts.
And I just remembered, you know, I had a hair stylist and she was telling me she had a scan done of the blood flow to her head skin. I’m sorry, is head skin too technical? I cannot think. And it predicted where she would start losing her hair. She was only maybe late twenties and she had these white or gray patches of heat? Was it a heat scan? I don’t know how they were measuring blood flow, but these white/gray patches were next to other areas on her scalp that were rendering as healthier flow. And they probably had a different color. And they had advised her to start brushing to stimulate these areas. They said to stimulate blood flow, but it could also be that they were really just stretching the muscles. Right? By pulling on the hair as the brush went through. So that’s an important takeaway – is something might work, but why it works might be different once you’ve investigated it better. Or, it could be that blood flow is the result of muscle use or muscle stretch really, so flow and stretch are lockstep. That all being said, if it works, why it works might not matter at all to anyone else but those whose job it is to write phrases like “Inducing Stretch Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue”. I can hear hair brushes coming out all over the world right now, friends.
So thanks for that question, Ryan. And peeps, I love to answer your questions about movement, so if there is something you’re wondering, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am excited to introduce my guest today. Angela Hanscom is a pediatric occupational therapist and she is the founder of TimberNook, which is an award-winning developmental nature program that has gained international popularity. As many of you probably recognize her name from, she is the author of Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children.
She recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post, which I’m gonna link to in the show notes, in which she is arguing that shuffling kids from one activity to another – we call that, as parents, transitioning – whether at school and at home is kind of robbing them from the time they need to go deeply into play. And movement play. And play, you know, is in many kids’ cases, a kid’s full-time job. And play teaches collaboration, creativity and problem-solving. It improves language, math, and social skills. Play deprivation is associated with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. They need more time to learn. They need more time to play, Angela says. We will talk about some of the actions we can take to make both of those things happen. Angela Hanscom, welcome to Move Your DNA!
ANGELA: Thanks for inviting me.
KATY: I am familiar with your book. Your book is great. I am less familiar with TimberNook. So can you talk just a little bit about what that is?
ANGELA: Sure! So essentially what TimberNook is is basically outdoor play experiences for children out in nature. So, inspiring them to play in creative ways but there’s also a lot of free play. So every three hours of programming, there’s a play experience where the environment is used to inspire kids to play in different ways. And then they have at least an hour and a half of free play every three hours. And it just, and even the experiences are very open-ended and child driven. So that’s TimberNook in a nutshell.
KATY: Is TimberNook, would someone offer TimberNook as a class? Do people come to TimberNook to be certified to be able to offer TimberNook classes? Or is TimberNook actually the place where you go to get that three-hour experience or both?
ANGELA: That’s a good question. We actually don’t do classes. We use it in the form of camps or programs. We’re really calling it a program because we found that a class is a very short amount of time and it’s just not allowing kids to get into a deeper level of play. So we, most of our programs are at least 3 hours long for that sole purpose. And the other thing that’s really unique to TimberNook is often you can’t find the adults or we’re hidden out there. So we’re watching the kids play and create societies and really just inspiring them to get to take play to a whole new level. So it’s in the form of like a forest program year round or a summer camp. That’s how it started was actually in the form of summer camp. But what’s happening now as I speak internationally about this outdoor play issue that we’re having – that we’re taking that away from children – I’m hearing from adults that they try to take pieces of this knowledge and bring it to administrators to create change. And they’re getting a lot of kickback. So what we’ve learned is that the teachers and the educators really need to experience us first hand to create change. So really the next step for TimberNook is we’re going to be bringing our programs into the pre-schools to bring back outdoor play.
KATY: What is my next question from that? So who are your TimberNook instructors then? I guess that’s my question.
ANGELA: So, we call the TimberNook providers and most of them are experts in the field of therapy or education.
ANGELA: A lot of them are doctorate level Occupational Therapists: “I’ve been doing research on this”, or Psychologists, Social Workers. And then a lot from the educational field: Montessori, Waldorf, and that sort of thing. Reggio Emilia. This kind of combines the world of healthcare and play.
ANGELA: It links it like a bridge.
KATY: So there’s a lot of pediatric Occupational Therapists. I’ve worked with lots of them.
KATY: But not all of them, I would say, have brought in that additional layer of movement that is natural movement. It’s like I think of everything in terms of movement so even time in nature is really just very diverse experiences of movement and texture and sound and wind and light. The resiliency, the same resiliency that you would find in response to a movement with less diversity is really ramped up in a natural setting.
KATY: What was on your journey that made you be really what I would say – and you could correct me if I’m wrong – but still an outlying therapist? Right? Like I would say you’re on the outliers of OTs in the fact that you have this diversity to your offering.
ANGELA: So none of this was planned. So what happened was, you know, I had my own children and my first child had a lot of sensory issues and I was overscheduling her. And I was shuffling her from one activity to the next. And it was all about activities. And then I used to have nightmares of going into the woods, even. So it was pretty ironic. I overcame a lot of fears. There was many things that happened in my life that got me down this road. But in a nutshell what happened was I started linking what I saw out in the woods, children, observing children playing out there and comparing that to what I was hearing in the schools. And there was a lot of frustration in the school environment with children and parents and even teachers where they’re not allowed to play in the same ways as years past. And so when my daughter was 5 years old and she went to kindergarten, my eye-opening experience was the teacher said, “We have a five minutes snack.” And she said, “If that becomes an issue we’re going to do a working snack.” She said, “We don’t have time to teach your children how to cut with scissors or to tie their shoes, so please put elastic laces on them. My husband’s gonna precut everything at nighttime.” And then they had a 15-minute recess. And they were five. And she said, “As soon as it snows we’re bringing your kids inside.” And as a therapist that works on development, I just knew that none of this was right. And so that was really what kind of stepped me on this path. And I started looking at different educational philosophies like Reggio Emilia and I looked at Finland where the kids were in the river dissecting fish and I ended up homeschooling for a couple years. And also realized that there was not many kids playing outside, so it was really just a series of events that happened in my life that got me down this road. And then what happened was I had an article that went on my blog. And that’s how TimberNook got out there in a big way from the beginning was this unique message about how we’re restricting children’s movement over and over and then how it’s impacting their development. Especially the senses.
KATY: Well especially when your job is to basically provide the movement and sensory experience that’s missing then you have both sides of it. You could see the therapy that would have to be done on the other side as well as why maybe some of the therapy needs exist in the first place. That’s a very unique perspective that you have.
KATY: So this podcast series is all super action based. Because we could probably have a full year series where you and I just talk about the problem. I mean we could talk about the nuances of the issues and there are many layers.
KATY: But taking action, I think at the end, I feel like most of us hear you say something like that and go, “Right. Nature. Movement. You don’t need to convince me any more than I needed.” The challenging part is how. What are the steps? And so I asked you to come with three of your steps and I’m gonna match your three with my three and hopefully with those six steps somebody listening can have a glimmer of an opportunity. Like movement, outdoor movement, outdoor movement with kids will become more accessible just because of the tips we give. So I’m gonna have you give a tip and I’m gonna tip. That kind of, I think, I’ll try to riff my tips on your tips. So… yeah.
ANGELA: So one action item is to extend recess to a full hour.
KATY: All right! You know, my kids are in that kind of common school program at this point. They’re still in kind of a nature school, homeschool, homeschool coop hybrid that we are fortunate enough to have in our area. But I was just – it’s back to school. So we’re recording this mid-September. I think everyone’s back in that first week of coming off and really seeing how unscheduled summer is compared to – I read your Washington Post piece and you really list out- there’s like a picture of the transitions in school. And you can see everything is in 35-45 minute blocks and they’re kind of about-faces sometimes. “Do this. Put this down. Do this over here.” And I have nephews that are now in school and they are reporting back that they only have 35 minutes – this is a middle school – they only have 35 -40 minutes of lunch/recess combo. And they don’t have smartphones, but all of their peers seem to and they said that basically sitting in the lunchroom and at recess is now looking at devices. Because they’re allowed to use their devices on their free time. Which totally shocked me. I assumed – I just assumed that devices weren’t allowed in academic settings like you could have it on you for emergencies but that you couldn’t actually pull it out. And I think probably because I went to regular school – we couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even bring out my own books a lot of times to read.
KATY: Like it all had to be kind of planned. So the amount of movement I think is significantly less than what you and I had or what my peer groups, you know, late 30s, early 40s, had. We didn’t even have that much movement but even that movement that we had, I had an hour for lunch and recess. That’s gone now, which is, at least in this school’s where we are.
KATY: So my tip is gonna kind of riff on yours because I think that most parents right now would have no idea how to extend a recess. You can’t, as a parent, tomorrow, extend your kids’ recess. You can certainly start talking to your school district. Talk to your PTAs, talk to your teachers. If you have more flexible schooling situations that don’t have so many things that they must offer because they have various government regulations, you can have a little bit of space. But I was just thinking, how can we, as parents, increase recess tomorrow? So I wanted to put out the idea of: create home recess sessions. Because I think that sometimes we forget that our home might be squashing movement in the same way that any place with a desk or an office so clearly does. So this is an example: We have a family movie night once a week, but I will actually pause the movie midway for a recess. And it’s not like, “ok everyone has to go move to offset the effects of sitting down and watching this movie.” It’s more like play, spontaneous fun. Like, “All right. We gotta go have a family sprint session.” Or “For breakfast tomorrow I need to make something right now so we need to go harvest some berries or rake some leaves or let’s all get on our bikes and let’s go ride out to that pole and back.” Just some sort of recess and of peeling everyone away can be a transition – I mean it is a transition. So everyone gets kind of jumbled when we first started. But once everyone was outside, that five minute break, because we’ve broke the inertia, turned into something more like everyone, once they were in that outdoor movement space, which as much as they love their weekly family movie they really crave outside movement time on such a deep level that they can’t really help but respond once you start it. And we’ll be out there for 45 minutes. And this is mid-movie. Mid-movie that they were super into but when you’re whole family is out there or your friends, or your bird friends, or whatever else is going on and you kind of engage in nature, like we’ll come back sometimes an hour later and sit down to finish our movie. And I do the same thing on kind of wintry or what I call cozy days when it’s really hard to break the coziness of inside to go outside. So I’ll just create a recess where it’s like, “We need to go make a nature bouquet.” Or “We need to go do this in the garden.” Or … or or or… come up with your own scenario. The point is that you see your home in the same way that you would want your teachers at school to be giving your children access to outside. That you’re facilitating what you want them to do in the same way in the space of your own home. So. Why do we need a full hour of recess?
ANGELA: Children are already sitting for hours at a time. They start to get antsy. And so their activity levels starts to get a little bit higher. And when you let them outside, let’s say you only get 20 minutes for recess, your activity level will actually go up first before it regulates back down. So children need a full 45 minutes to an hour for that activity level to regulate itself so they can be calm and grounded and be able to pay attention.
ANGELA: The other issue with only having short recess sessions is it takes time to figure out who you’re gonna play with, what you’re gonna play, and then to play out that play scheme. So, again, 15-20 minute recess sessions is never enough time to get into deeper play. And so children often resort to playing tag or playing on play structures. But we’re missing that creative play which is so important for social development.
KATY: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense because I think that sometimes we think of kids’ needs of movement as encroaching on what we need to do. And so it’s like, “Oh look the kids are full up on what they can take academically let’s let them out and let them run off their fidgety so they can sit back down to learn more of what we want to teach them, versus, seeing movement as learning. I think that that’s the biggest piece that’s missing.
ANGELA; Yeah. And sometimes when the children come back in, actually a lot of times they’re more hyper than before and so teachers are getting frustrated with recess saying “Well why bother.”
KATY: Right. Because the actual shape of the recess is not the right shape.
ANGELA: Yeah. Right.
ANGELA: My second action item is to allow children to move in ways that make adults gasp. So, essentially what I’m saying is, allowing kids to go upside down on monkey bars, to jump off a swing if they want to, to climb trees to heights that might make us a little nervous, to spin in circles ’til they fall on the ground, that sort of thing. Because those are the type of movements that are gonna help organize the brain. Frequently I will see an adult say, “don’t spin, you’re gonna get dizzy” but …
KATY: That’s the point!
ANGELA: When they’re spinning their neurological system is really trying to organize that sense. And so if we constantly say “no, be careful, stop” then we become the barrier to child development. So we actually need to allow more opportunities for kids to move in different ways. Because if we don’t they’re gonna become more and more unsafe.
KATY: Right. Well, my action item would be then: adults need to start moving in ways that make other adults gasp and make sure that there are children watching and you can watch the children watching break out in joyful smiles and run over to try something similar – maybe scaled to their own level. And I think that, as you were talking about so much of the “be careful. Don’t do that” or “watch out” …
KATY: There used to be so much more of that. And I’m interested in sedentary culture as a whole and I think that as a whole the grown-ups themselves are receding from those challenging movements and then their perspective is that they’re dangerous. Like I have had so many adults who don’t spend a lot of time out moving in complex or challenging ways stop my kids in doing the nature exploring, physically complex thing by telling them that they can’t do it – as they’re doing it. Or to start listing the reasons why that would be bad. And then over time it just, you get a whole group where nobody can do that thing. So…
KATY: you know, grown-ups on playgrounds or just to start challenging yourself. If you’ve… I get a lot of people asking me as I’m sure you do, “how do I get my kids to move more?” The number one, the first thing I would say, is start moving more yourself and doing it in front of your kids. Get a gymnastics mat. Put it in your backyard and you start practicing somersaults. You start practicing cartwheels and handstands. And if you need to do the preparatory moves to get there, I mean, that’s what I do, to help people get to explore some of those more complex spaces. But if you do it yourself and especially when you can do stuff – like I love doing cartwheels with a group of kids. We’ll go to a park and I will do one and there’s a flock of kids all of a sudden around you because you’re doing this thing. Yeah. You moving more – number one way to get other kids moving more. And that also kind of shows, I think the kids pick up more on modeling than on instruction.
KATY: And I’ve talked about it on other podcast episodes. And it would be interesting, Angela, to hear your take on it where a kid’s job is to play. You can really find that in many traditional cultures. Certainly hunter/gatherer cultures where they don’t see children as really needing to participate in the work of the grown-ups, I guess, of the culture. They’re playing. But, the play that they do is all playful versions of skills that they will call on…
KATY: …as grownups. So that’s where I like to clarify play. That there’s knowledge that is in play. And when grown-ups can be playful using their body for stuff that we need, then your kid wants to pop out next to you and for them, it’s play because there’s no right or wrong way to do it. They don’t have to have any particular outcome. They can stop when they’re tired. They can stay, maybe their play of me digging because I had to do something turns into them looking at bugs and then I move on but they’re still there with the bugs 47 minutes later. Or filling a hole with water or whatever they’re doing. But if you can use your body to do movement things that bring you joy then they will slowly pick up on those through modeling. And not in that classic activity instruction time.
ANGELA: Absolutely. Environment is huge. The big piece of the issue, I guess, at TimberNook our environment is a huge influencer. It’s a little different here because there’s no adults. I mean the adults are really – there are adults and they’re supervising – but they’re really stepping back and observing for most of the time. We’re only there for safety so we’ll go up and we’ll intervene but the other children there – we have mixed ages on purpose – the other children are inspiration to do things. So there might be a child that’s very afraid to get dirty and they’ll see other kids in the mud puddle catching frogs and that is enough for them to overcome their fear and get in because of that modeling piece that you’re talking about. So I do believe that there’s a huge component to modeling too, from the parenting perspective in the home environment. And I think there’s great value to playing with our children. And there’s great value to also giving them time where we kind of step back and allow them to play with other kids and see what they come up with. But that environment piece is huge.
ANGELA: So the third tip is to inspire big body play outdoors. You know I’ve seen a lot of fairy houses or scavenger hunt type things but I think, you know, again using that environment for inspiration is pretty powerful and it can really empower kids to come up with their own ideas. Which is becoming an issue more and more. Where we’re actually seeing kids that come to our program that have no idea how to play. And it’s very sad because like we were talking about, it’s their occupation – of a child is play. So thinking big, if you want to inspire big body play, you would instead of … you know with fairy houses you have little loose parts or materials that they can move around. But with big body play, you want to think big tires, planks, that sort of thing. Bricks. Things that engage the muscles and give resistance to their movement will inspire building, constructing, and you see play come alive at a bigger scale. So that would be one of my tips. And I think that we often think of toys, like you know, our first instinct is to provide toys outside for children. But I think there’s a lot of value to bringing loose parts to the outdoor environment even at home. You know, like even putting baskets outside but not necessarily having anything in them, can be enough for a child to be inspired to do something with a basket. So it really just is a prop. It’s a mode for inspiration to play. So just really being creative with that.
KATY: We went to a concert this summer outside and the people who were hosting the concert had provided the game Jenga – which I think of as a fine motor skill, right? Your stacking and you’re removing. But it was full sized Jenga. So they were cut 2 x 4s. So you were squatting and picking up things and darting out of the way when the whole thing was crashing and getting up and walking around and I think if I can just clarify…
KATY: Big body you mean basically the opposite of fine motor. So instead of building a fairy house where you’re moving your wrists and you’re moving your fingers, and having this delicate balance, you are squatting, picking up things that are a little bit more heavy… There’s another school here in our town that their playground – I think this is key – they don’t keep it out all the time. They pull things off their playground area and put them back seasonally and monthly so that it’s always fresh and always inspiring. But they have big pieces of lumber out there.
KATY: And the kids just start dragging and grabbing and building and they’ll just come up with stuff that you could never ever come up with any other time. And that’s what you mean by big body, right?
ANGELA: Right. So the kids out during free play, the older kids especially, they’ll create whole societies out there. So they’ll have stores, they’ll have trading posts where it’s safe to trade. They’ll be lugging tires back and forth for currency. But they’re just engaging all of the muscles and the senses. Climbing up boulders to bring things up there. And it’s stuff that you, as a therapist, it’s like six months worth of therapy in a week that you see out there.
KATY: Right. Right. And I think that, too, it’s so important. We’re talking about less. And I think that there’s a lot of discussion around nature and movement and natural movement being accessible. And one element of accessibility is about money. A lot of it is about time and a lot of other social factors. But for so many, like even starting a program. Even I’ve worked with a lot of occupational therapists and physical therapists who, you know you open up an office and you have to buy all the equipment to move the arms and the legs or you can set up more of a green space office where your whole entire therapeutic setup could potentially be almost free, right? Especially if you’re using green spaces that have small shelters or whatever. These are inexpensive things for most people that provide even more than what their more expensive counterpart offers.
ANGELA: Absolutely. For instance, one of those sensory balance beams usually cost between two and three hundred dollars.
KATY: How much is a two by four?
ANGELA: Right. Exactly. And or you could go on a log which – it’s free, you know?
KATY: Right. Well ok, so my tip for this is: alter your environment to make big body play outdoors. And I would add it even indoors. Like to make it occur naturally. And so this means making changes to what’s in your yard or in whatever play space you have or change how often you are going into spaces where big body play is better supported. I was thinking on this because I’m currently working with a school to design these spaces for both their outside and their inside – to have their classroom furniture facilitate big body play. What you call big body play – I’ve never used that term before. It’s a great term. And one of the things I’ve noticed through a lot of research is, schools, not all but most, are already set up, they already own lots of green spaces.
KATY: But most of all the green spaces that are owned by schools are barely utilized. I mean a fraction of the time and I feel sometimes educational models are challenging to shift because money is such a big deal.
ANGELA: And time.
KATY: Money and time. Well so, like money’s a big deal …
KATY: … because there’s no budget to add anything else. Right. Ok. So how can we then leverage the fact that your school is already 20-50% green space? It’s already there. That space is already there. What happens is there’s not a lot of lessons that are given through the filter of movement. And I was just thinking – I had a great physics teacher who taught so much of our physics classroom outside. We would actually go to stadium stairs and generate our own horsepower. Like we would get the timer, we figured out the height and then we would run it and then we would see if our horsepower changed over time – if we could do other things. So I think that there is a huge amount of education. So I think on one hand there’s this idea that you are bringing up that has been brought up in vitamin nature and Richard Louv books and in some of our nature school podcasts where learning can be the by-product of just physically engaging with your environment – with your natural environment. Because a large part of curriculum is basically just natural knowledge. We call it science. But it’s science – it’s the knowledge of what’s happening around you – the other things, the living things. So if you get out there and you’re fortunate enough to be in a space where you can, like you said, go to the river and pull out the frog or see what happens when you dig a hole and watch the path of the water move, those are all things that we reduce to equations in textbooks and they don’t have very much natural context. We don’t understand always that these are things happening in the world. They seem more like things that are happening in a book, inside a classroom and my job is to read it and pass the test and then be successful as a grown-up. Right?
KATY: So there’s this idea of extending play because learning can happen in that context. At the same time, for people, for all of us who have to transition this model that we have of the education that we all need to hold, is that we could take curriculum that we’ve already decided to be valuable and add movement to it. So those are two different approaches that I think are moving towards the same set of problems, right? So if you feel like free play at a certain point, if you got that, if you’re able to facilitate that, then folks that are doing the traditional academics if they could start thinking in terms of adding more movement – big body movement – natural movement, big body movement in nature – to the curriculum, now we’re moving. Now we’re moving quickly because we’re on both sides of the problem at the same time. And I have so many ideas of how to do this. So if anyone out there ever wants to do an entire academic school based around movement, then you should call me.
KATY: Don’t call me. Never mind. It’s the way of the future but the future is now. I mean I don’t think there’s any more delay.
ANGELA: It’s happening.
KATY: It’s happening. It needs to happen now.
KATY: Well is there anything else that we should … I’m going to link to your Washington Post piece. And I will link to your post that went viral. That came out before your book, right? Or did it come out right about the same time?
ANGELA: No it came out before the book. Why kids can’t sit still … something like that.
KATY: Well we’ll link to both of them so you can get the sense of Angela’s work. It’s really great. I have one more question: Can people become TimberNook instructors? Or if a school wanted to add that element to their school do they go and train with TimberNook and then are able to come back and offer it? Is that how that works?
ANGELA: So the model that’s opening up in 2019 is that schools can become certified to do TimberNook programming in the school. So that will come out in January or February of 2019.
KATY: Well it’s interesting because there’s a tremendous amount of research and data on children and moving and academics and nature time and well-being and therapy and … getting it to take action is the problem. The understanding of it is not problematic. It’s there. It’s understood. Changing the paradigm, that seems to be the missing piece.
KATY: But I have heard at various conferences now that everyone kind of understands that this outdoor education and play space is really kind of a foundational requirement…
KATY: …for children which are just future adults, to be well.
ANGELA: Yeah. It’s becoming a law for some states to add play back into the curriculum.
KATY: Yes. But the problem seems to be or the holdup seems to be there’s not enough adults with outdoor movement play skills to lead the children.
KATY: That’s the issue. It’s like now that we have an understanding there’s no support for grown-ups who then have to take these jobs. So I really see things like your program filling a huge niche. People who are starting nature school trainings, my role is to help physical resiliency and comfort in movement – in moving through nature. MovNat – becoming movement teachers. These are all tools to the same end which is to make those who are kind of in charge of the children more suitable to lead them in the direction that we now know we should be going, kind of as a group of humans.
ANGELA: So way cool.
KATY: It’s super cool. So thank you for writing so much and putting those ideas out there.
ANGELA: Thank you, Katy.
KATY: Angela Hanscom. You can find out more about her at TimberNook.com.
And the companies that make up our Dynamic Collective are also each on their own path. And I’m fascinated by their work. They are makers. They take ideas about how to live more dynamically, and they turn those ideas into products that can help you do just that. So this fall on Move Your DNA, we’re getting to know more about these companies, and really what interests me most is how do they turn their ideas into products.
So today we have Suzanne Solsona. She’s the founder and CEO of MyMayu, which makes these innovative, minimal, outdoor boots for kids. And soon … (trumpet sound) for adults which I’m excited to talk about! So Suzanne, welcome to Move Your DNA!
SUZANNE: Thank you so much. I am so happy to be here today.
KATY: I used to run a lot of shoe and footwear discussions. I have two books on feet that came out pretty close together and we were always talking about – I mean I feel like we talk an inordinate amount about footwear on my social media channels specifically, minimal footwear. Someone else had shared, I think when your company might have been just starting they said, “Have you ever heard of these?” I’m from California. I had never really owned rain boots or winter gear my whole life and then we moved to the pacific northwest. Our kids were going to nature preschool and they were maybe 3 and 4 and someone forwarded a link to your company at it was finally exactly what we needed which was, gear that had these minimal footwear principles.
So, I shared it wide. And I’m sure everyone else was excited as I was. But I would like to know, how did MyMayu get started. What made you start making your… how would you describe them…they’re not rainboots you said. How would you describe your boots?
SUZANNE: We call MyMayu boots as all-purpose outdoor boot for kids. And when we say all purpose we mean that because of the materials they’re made of, they’re super lightweight, they’re really flexible, they’re easily packable, they can pack really tight so you can take them traveling or back camping or just anywhere out with you. The whole idea behind them was to allow kids to get outside without being impeded by their clunky footwear. And I’ll be honest. I actually come from a legal background and my partner, my husband, comes from the animated movie industry. So neither one of us really fell into this because of experience but rather true necessity. Both he and I are huge outdoor people and have grown up since a very young age in the mountains, skiing, hiking, camping with our own families. Him in Argentina and me here in Canada. And so when our youngest son, we have two sons, my youngest son Rio started walking at a really early age, he wasn’t even 10 months old yet, we literally could not find any boots for him to wear outside that would first of all fit his feet and second of all that his little chubby legs could actually lift up. The only things we could find where your traditional rubber boots. And as cute as they were, he was doing face plants into every single puddle he was trying to jump into because he just couldn’t lift his feet off the ground. And I started asking around to all my momma friends on the playground, because I had left law at that point and asked, “You know there’s gotta be something that he can wear outside that doesn’t make him trip.” And nobody had any options for us. So that’s when we went “well, you know there’s this gap in the market. Why isn’t anyone filling it.” So after a lot of hemming and hawing, we started looking into is this possible. Is this feasible? How could we design something that would be more practical, more useful, and better for kids to wear? And after lots of discussion we took the plunge in 2013. We took the plunge and started MyMayu. So it was really a product of necessity more than anything. It’s just nobody was making anything for kids and so we decided we should do it ourselves. A little bit of a crazy idea but here we are four years after debuting our first boot and things have really really grown and not in small part to you. So thank you for sharing.
KATY: Well, you’re welcome. And it is a huge… it’s a huge oversight. And then I see it more from the movement side. We have a nature school here. So I see families come to nature education and they’re not thinking movement. THey’re just thinking academics outside. And I teach movement in a lot of different ways. Not everyone knows that I teach it also locally in different groups and so I’ll work sometimes with parents and they will – they’re like just look at my kid as they’re going into the forest. They’re just not very coordinated. There’s a lot of myths, I think, around how children move awkwardly and stumble because they don’t have all of their coordination yet. And these parents are saying, “my kids are – their balance is so poor and they’re slipping all the time and they don’t want to go for long walks” and meanwhile this kid has got this stiff boot that allows no ankle flexion. It’s so thick that they can’t feel what’s underneath. It’s made out of very slick rubber, sometimes, with no traction. And I feel like this isn’t your child that you’re seeing. This is your child in this particular — they’re heavy, you know, relative to the weight of their segments. And so I really like to begin the school year and back to school footwear shopping time by saying everything that you’re adding to your kids’ body is informing, and to our bodies frankly, is informing our movement and the way that we move. And so when we think of how things are, it’s just a piece of gear that maybe isn’t quite right. For people who live in wet, rainy areas, your boots have been amazing. We are on our, probably our 6th or 7th pair at this time. So I appreciate what you are doing but, I have just heard that you are also going to start making grown-up boots and I just want to know if that’s true or not.
SUZANNE: That is true. So since we started this, I mean I hate traditional rubber boots. They’re not comfortable for me. I had a bad car accident in the early 2000s that screwed up my back. Which really got me thinking more about as you say movement, how I move, how I sit, what I’m wearing on my feet. And I just found too, as I age, I need things that are more minimal. I just feel better. And traditional rubber boots are… I hate them. They’re horrid. But in, as you say, in the Pacific Northwest, here in North Vancouver Canada, you need something in the winter. The fall/winter/spring. I mean three seasons at least. To protect your feet and keep them somewhat dry and somewhat warm from the elements. So I am so excited about our new adult boots. We’re launching our Kickstarter in October and I am just so excited about them. We’re launching with two different styles. One is more unisex and it’s a little bit lower on the leg. And then one goes all the way up to the knee and is more feminine. So I imagine more women will buy it. But both of them have the same principles. They’re super lightweight. They’re flexible. It’s basically the grown-up version of the kids’ boots. And we’re just so excited. I just can’t wait. I’m sure you can hear it in my voice.
KATY: I know. I know. And that’s a huge shift. I can’t even imagine what that would be like. It would be like me adding kids’ programs. It’s like doubling the work that you’re doing.
SUZANNE: It changes the dynamic of the company but in the same vein it doesn’t. Because from day one we have really been more about getting families, getting people outside. And that’s our motto. Is just be outside. And I firmly believe it that. Because every time I’m having a bad day and I’m in my head, the best thing for me to do – and I did it even yesterday with my young son Rio, is to get outside. It was raining, we were cooped up. Nobody was happy. And I just grabbed his hand and I said, “Look, we’re going for a walk.” And just going for that 45-minute walk outside, getting our blood pumping, we had some alone time together. It just it really is about that. So our gear, each and every time we put something new out there, we change something with the boots or we add a product to our product line, there’s this real conscious decision when we’re making those changes, those design element changes, we’re introducing a new product is: is this going to help people get outside and enjoy nature more? Because I used to look at playgrounds, and I still do even at my son’s school. I call them boot battlefields. I’m sure you’ve seen the number of parents who actually carry their children’s big clunky rubber boots and the children are running around in the rain in their running shoes because they’re lighter weight and they’re easier to run in and that’s what they want to play in. They don’t want to be clomping around in big boots. And adults don’t either. So, we need to get them on adults as well.
KATY: And I think that’s why I love all of you in the collective. You’re all makers. You’re all making products. But no one’s end goal was to start a shoe company. It was always to solve a problem. It was to make movement in all these cases more accessible. More natural movement, more movement in nature, more nature time, more family time. And that to me is just … it’s such a beautiful perspective to launch a company from because I think it resonates. I can feel it on your website and the way you do customer service and the way that you talk about your products. So again just highlighting that not all products are the same because the intention behind them is different. I would like everyone to know that you support our local non-profit kids in nature organization. So I wanted to thank you on behalf of the Olympic Nature Experience because I’m on the board there. But what do you most want people to know about MyMayu that maybe they don’t?
SUZANNE: THat’s a really good question. I think really what I would like most people to know about MyMayu is we really are a small, family company that has big dreams and the best intentions. And so not everything goes well in your first innovation of products. Sometimes it takes a while to learn things. And we learned a lot over the last 4 years. You know, manufacturing is an entirely different beast. My husband and I each bring our own unique set of talents and strengths to our company but basically I run this while my sons are at school and then we do more when they’re in bed. And we’re working super hard. And you know sometimes we don’t get things perfect. I have taught my sons from the beginning there’s no such thing as perfect but we do intend and strive to put the best thing out there that we possibly can. And each time that there’s a new iteration and there’s tweaks and designs, we take all of the feedback from our customers. You know I take … criticism is a way to improve. It’s the opportunity to make things better. And so when people reach out and say, “You know, I didn’t really like this aspect of it. Have you thought about changing it?” I welcome that. Because we don’t know everything. We’re just trying to get kids and families and adults outside and enjoying things without really having to consciously think about what’s on their feet. So that’s what I really would like people to know about MyMayu. We’re here. We’re doing our best and we just want to help you get outside and enjoy nature. Because I truly do believe that nature heals pretty much anything.
KATY: I just have one more question that just occurred to me: What’s a Mayu.
SUZANNE: So, as I said, our youngest son, Rio, was the reason for creating these boots. And so Rio, meaning river. We have this logo that has the two M’s. We started off the company calling it Muddy Munchkin. And I’ll be honest there was a big shoe company that had some problems with the word Munchkin. So, in the end, we agreed with this big shoe conglomerate just for our line of boots but that we would have to call our company something else. So we liked the logo mark. We liked the little critters, the two Ms. And so we had to come up with something else. Luckily for us, the Quechua word for river is Mayu. So MyMayu was this singsongy, still had the two M’s and it actually fits a lot better. And I really like it. Some people have a hard time pronouncing it, but it really works for us. And Quechua also being – it’s an ancient language. It was spoken by the Incas and my husband being South American. It was like all these stars aligned. And in the end I’m actually grateful that we had to change our name because I think MyMayu speaks more about our company. It’s more with the flow. The flow of a river. We go with the flow. It’s got that water element that’s important to all of our family. We like to live by the water. We’re kiteboarders. We like to surf even if it’s poorly. So all of these different elements came in and that’s where MyMayu came from.
KATY: Suzanne Solsona is the founder and CEO of MyMayu, which is M A Y U for any of those out there wondering. And you can find out more about them at mymayu.com. Suzanne, thank you so much for coming on.
SUZANNE: Thank you so much, Katy.
KATY: That’s it for Move Your DNA this time. If you liked what you heard and you are not yet a subscriber, please consider subscribing! And if you really like what you heard, please leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. Your review helps other listeners find their way to us. And we appreciate every one of you! On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, thank you for listening! Until next time: Get outside!
VOICEOVER: This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully, you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.