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New Mexico's Leading Family Publication Since 1992

New Mexico Kids! family magazine is a bimonthly tabloid filled with detailed listings of activities for children, teens and their parents, grandparents and teachers, along with comprehensive directories of public and private schools, summer camps, afterschool programs and other vital resources.

About 30,000 copies of New Mexico Kids! are distributed to more than 350 locations in Albuquerque, the East Mountains, Corrales, Placitas, Bernalillo, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Eldorado and Española.

Each issue features a full-color reproduction of a New Mexico child's painting on the cover, and contains articles filled with practical tips and ideas for raising New Mexico children. In New Mexico Kids! family magazine, you won't find the generic parenting articles you can find elsewhere. We offer local help to local families.

New Mexico Kids! is a must-read for anyone who has or works with children or teens, birth through college.

New Mexico's Leading Family Publication Since 1992

At Play in the Bosque:

Children Romp in Nature at Free Forest School​

By TANIA SOUSSAN

Every Sunday morning, a group of young children has been turning a section of the Albuquerque  bosque into a playground, climbing on a downed cottonwood tree, wading in the Rio Grande and building forts out of sticks.

The gatherings are part of a new Free Forest School chapter organized by Alex Reedin, who moved to Albuquerque from Portland last summer with his husband and their 3- and 4-year-old

 daughters.

“It’s mostly unstructured play time,” he said. “A nice thing about playing outside is there are very few rules.”

The group communicates through a Facebook page and meets Sunday mornings at the Alameda Picnic Area & Trail parking lot, also known as the Alameda Open Space parking lot. Then they walk together about a quarter of a mile to their “base camp.”

The gatherings are free, and the group is run by volunteers. Free Forest School, a national organization, aims to foster the next generation of environmental stewards by giving children up to 6 years old a chance to play independently in nature – something that kids commonly did a generation or two ago.

These days, “nature-deficit disorder,” the lack of exposure to the outdoors among children and adults is common.

“Research shows nature play benefits children’s health, supporting social-emotional, physical and cognitive development and wellness,” according to the national Free Forest School organization. “Yet time spent outdoors in unstructured play is at an all-time low and many children face significant barriers to playing in nature.”

Free Forest School was founded by mother and educator Anna Sharratt in 2015 and now has chapters around the country.

There also are private, fee-based forest schools in Albuquerque and around the world. The principles of forest schools include regular meetings in the same woodland environment with opportunities for hands-on learning.

Camella Rogers runs Moonbeams, a Waldorf-inspired forest school that meets in the bosque and the East Mountains.

“For our children, it’s all about rhythm and ritual and free play,” she said.

Reedin was part of a Free Forest School chapter in Portland and thought it would be a good way to meet people in Albuquerque.

Six families have become regulars at the gatherings, but Reedin and the others hope to expand their ranks.

“It would be great to get this out to more children,” he said, adding that his ambition is to broaden the diversity of the group and start a bilingual gathering at the Rio Bravo Accessible Loop Trail & Fishing Pier, also known as the Rio Bravo Open Space, in the South Valley.

Some people, like Reedin and Kyle Maxwell, also use the meetings to give their stay-at-home partners a break from parenting.

Maxwell is an outdoors person who takes his almost 2-year-old daughter hiking, but he also wanted her to have more opportunities to play in nature.

“She always has fun. It’s a good time to relax, enjoy nature,” he said. “Anyone’s welcome. It’s a friendly group.”

Amy Cabeza de Baca’s husband is out of town on weekends, so the Free Forest School gatherings give her and her high-energy boys, 5 and 3, something physical and social to do.

“We’ve been going every weekend,” she said. “The boys have made some really good friends. I’ve also made some really good friends.”

Cabeza de Baca said she’s also enjoyed watching the bosque change through the seasons and seeing how her boys react. She and some of the other families have organized outings to other areas, such as Jemez Falls, through the Facebook page.

Making friends has been important for Jessica Bruck and her 4-year-old daughter as well. Their family moved to Albuquerque from New York City in late August. In New York, they took part in a paid forest school in Central Park. The new Free Forest School chapter allows them to continue that connection to nature.

“I really like that kids are allowed to play with the elements,” Bruck said. “My daughter has a lot of freedom there.”

She has watched the children climb trees, build a shelter for a stink beetle and pretend to be birds building a nest for their baby by smearing mud on a tree with sticks. The children have used the dirt and mud like a sandbox to build cities and tunnels. Last winter they used sticks to whack at ice in the river.

More information:

facebook.com/groups/FreeForestSchoolAlbuquerqueNM/

freeforestschool.org

ffsalbuquerquenm@gmail.com