Val Fox Writes

About Earth's Inhabitants

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Playing in the Dirt

Posted by Val Fox on May 3, 2012 at 11:25 PM


     More than 140 young people have lived with us over the years; many were diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ( I dislike the term DISORDER.) One of the activities I've done with them each spring is play in the dirt, no matter what their age.

Most kids enjoy creating something outside after the dark, winter months. Alongside the lobelias and the poppies the children plant seedlings that include bright orange merigolds, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, radishes and whatever other vegetables will fit.  They watch their projects grow, and add to Earth's beauty or to the dinner table.  Feeling proud and excited, they can even pick their own snacks right out of the garden.

Yesterday we played in the flower beds: turned over the soil with spoons and spade, examined earthworms and sprayed one another with water. We weeded, thinned and transplanted, preparing for this year's colorful surprises.  The red tulips they planted last year bend and weave in a circular embrace.

Two other plots contain a hodge-podge of  prairie plants and grasses, each trying to take over the space.  We learned not to dig up native prairie plants.  Gathered in this manner will also transport other seeds that have been lying dormant in the soil.  When transplanted into good soil with a wind shelter, the hitchhiking seeds germinate too.

The kids used newspaper, then mulch to cover the soil, except for around the plants they wanted to keep.  We have become students, learning how to properly collect seeds from the wild.  It can be tricky as each plant requires collection at the optimum time, under the right conditions. Many of the kids I've worked with require close supervision and simple directions.


Robin, blackbird and meadowlark music, and the smell of damp earth help set the mood. We squeeze a dime's-worth of liquid bandage to protect our hands. One wants to dig. Another wants to plant. One tells a story while another shows his moves.The physical exercise connects them to the earth and its inhabitants. It expends pent-up energy and allows them to express themselves away from TV and video games, and helps them sleep at night.    

The children I've worked with come with a variety of challenges.  Some can't remember directions.  Others have difficulty dealing with strong emotions. Some drink and steal cars while others run away searching. One sits alone watching the others play. Another will destroy or steal possessions.

One time I went out to check the garden and one of the kids had given himself and the rose bush a "haircut."   The rose had been planted in memory of grandma Emma and grew back thicker than ever. All scissors were put in a safe place from then on, as was the knife found buried under the couch.

Training and mentors help us understand many of the children better; but in the end, it's the kids that have been my best teachers.  They have taught me the importance of safety protocols, of back-up plans, of making transitions more of a process rather than sudden announcement.  A nightly song can comfort the toughest teen or a frightened child. Self care and strong supports will help us discover joy among the bumps.

Thanks for visiting.:) 

Photo:  Creative Commons


Tags: Youth mental health; at-risk youth; listen to the kids; children as teachers; children in care; youth in treatment; special kids require creative outlets;

Categories: Children As Teachers

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Reply Val Fox
4:07 PM on May 6, 2012 
Thanks to you both for your comments. Today, a new foal was born and the kids are excited - another learning opportunity. :)
Reply Jennifer Chow
2:12 PM on May 6, 2012 
Found you through Finding New Friends Weekend Blog Hop. Thank you for sharing this. Having worked in the social welfare sector, I'm very appreciative of your efforts. And what lovely photos.
Reply Candy Lynn
6:34 PM on May 4, 2012 
What a beautiful service you are doing in the world. :)) Welcome to the IWSG!


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This is the personal website of writer Val Fox from Alberta, Canada: soon-to-be published author; freelance writer/editor; ghost writer; animal and child advocate; amateur photographer and avid camper.  Welcome!


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