How the Children’s Museum of Denver’s New Adventure Forest Scares Your Kid Into Better Health
posted by: Guest Blogger
We all know American kids are spending too much time in front of screens—an average of six hours per day for eight- to 12-year-olds—but replacing smartphone games with outdoor experiences isn’t just about getting kids moving. “Risky play,” a type of physical activity youngsters crave (think: climbing trees, hide-and-seek), is a crucial part of physical and cognitive development. Enter Adventure Forest, a 500-foot-long aerial adventure course that opened at the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus this past June and is designed to (safely) encourage this sort of free play. “It’s about doing things at height or speed where there’s perceived danger or feeling lost and having to find your way,” Adventure Forest coordinator Karyn Perdue says. Here, we outline the ways the course’s various features help make your child stronger and smarter.
Pick A Path
There are numerous access points into Adventure Forest (created in conjunction with Grand Junction’s Bonsai Design), but if children begin their journeys near the park’s entrance, they’re immediately faced with options: Walk up the staircase, or wiggle up the chimney climb? Decision-making promotes self-efficacy.
Taking the first step onto the rope spider web—situated 28 feet above the ground—allows children to confront their fears and learn to appraise risk. It’s also a practice in social navigation. “It’s about encouraging other kids,” Perdue says. “Comforting them and showing empathy.”
The rope swing advances locomotor skills such as grip strength, coordination, and spatial orientation while allowing kids to feel what it’s like to not be in control. Once on the zip-line-like swing, for example, they can’t stop until they reach the other side.