Autumn leaf-pile jumping makes kids smarter

Autumn leaf-pile jumping makes kids smarter
The classic American sound of the baseball playoffs on television reminds me of something our family used to do this time of year.

According to the research done by the Children and Nature Network – and dozens of other organizations – “Children are smarter, cooperative, happier and healthier when they have frequent and varied opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors.”

In other words, go hit a rock with a stick for awhile, kid. Good for ya.

In the '90s, when my two kids were school-age, we’d have a yearly party called “Catalapa Leaf-Whomping Day.” Two eight-stories-high catalpa trees grow in our streamside backyard - those monsters with dinner-plate-sized leaves and two-foot seed pods that look like dried green beans on crack (perfect for whacking your little sister).

When the leaves fall from these godzillas, holy smokes! - it’s a mess. The kids and their friends would go door-to-door organizing the neighbors on a Saturday afternoon for a raking party, which, after some mighty raking, produced a leaf pile the size of an SUV.

With a whoop the kids would break ranks and run for the first flying leap, the dogs plunged in headlong, and the barking, leaf-tossing and mayhem began. We never even took a picture, so intent were we moms showing our kids that moms jump in leaf-piles, too. We were living life, not photographing it.

After at least one shrieking chaotic “snake! snake!” episode when the older boys…
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