The other day while doing some online reading, I happened to notice an article titled “Here’s Why You Should Never Let Your Kids Jump in Leaf Piles.”
Thinking it was a joke or some over-dramatized piece of clickbait, I laughed. What parent wouldn’t let their kids jump in a pile of leaves?
I clicked on the link and discovered that it wasn’t in jest, and the article actually did outline the dangers of jumping in leaf piles. I skimmed the article in disbelief. I couldn’t necessarily disagree with anything in this article. Yes, kids might get scratched by branches. Yes, kids might encounter a tick or small animal. Yes, kids might be exposed to mold.
But what I strongly disagreed with was the very premise behind this article. Are parents becoming so overprotective of their children that they are denying them this autumnal rite of passage? Are people so worried about the dangers that might be lurking that they prevent their children from playing in nature?
Not me. I firmly believe kids should be out in nature learning and experiencing new things as much as possible. And, after spending the afternoon watching my own young children, ages 4 and 6, play in the leaves, here are the reasons why I think children should most definitely jump in those leaves:
It Gets Your Kids Outside
During a season when the days are getting shorter and the layers of clothing are getting thicker, children spend less time outside. A pile of freshly raked leaves can be a clever way to entice children to get some fresh air and burn off some energy. For me, letting the kids jump in leaf piles and scatter the colorful leaves throughout the yard is the perfect alternative to the normal destruction of my house that occurs every afternoon.
It’s A Great Way For Your Kids (And You!) To Get Some Physical Activity
My children will play in leaves for hours. During this time, they don’t stop and ask me how much screen time they have left for the day. They don’t ask me if they can watch another episode of The Lion Guard. They don’t whine that they are bored. Instead, they are in constant motion–running, jumping, twirling, throwing, and burrowing through leaves.
As an added bonus, raking those piles of leaves is a good arm workout and a much more enjoyable way to meet my daily step goal than getting on the treadmill.
It’s A Great Sensory Experience
Now, as your children get older, you definitely want to reign in all of that leaf-jumping enthusiasm and turn it into leaf-raking enthusiasm; however, when they are young, it’s a great way to introduce them to all sorts of sensory experiences. I still remember placing my 8-month-old daughter in a pile of leaves for the first time and the pure delight she radiated as she grabbed fistful after fistful of brittle leaves and crunched them in her hands.
A pile of leaves offers so many learning opportunities. Who can create the biggest pile of leaves? Who can walk the quietest through the pile? How many different colored leaves can you find? Who can find the biggest leaf?
Do you have a high-energy kid or one who needs extra physical activity throughout the day? The physical aspect of jumping over and over again can help combat a long day of sitting still at a desk in school.
When else will a person experience such joy by simply jumping into a pile of dead leaves? Don’t get me wrong, I love to be outside crunching through the leaves or flopping down onto a pile of them. And there is something so beautiful about watching more leaves float down from the trees. But jumping? No. This thirty-something body is not too keen on the impact!
My kids, however, fly up in the air, bodies almost weightless from the joy of the launch, without a care in the world. They land wildly with limbs flailing as the leaves cover their bodies. Their squeals of excitement and laughter go on and on. They never worry that the leaves won’t cushion their fall.
Yes, it might be dirty. Yes, there might be a wayward stick that could scratch. Yes, the kids will definitely need to wash their hands and put on clean clothes when they come inside. However, the benefits of unrestrained childhood joy far outweigh any concerns.
Let your kids experience nature in all of its beautiful messiness as they celebrate the change of seasons. Encourage your children to jump in a pile of leaves for as long as it makes them happy because soon enough they will grow up and a pile of leaves will become just a chore.
Let your kids be kids.