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Outdoor play: Three reasons it’s so important for ensuring a child’s wellbeing

8th October 2020 Print

Cognition, wellbeing and the ability to cooperate with others: just three of the things that are enriched and improved in a child’s life through outdoor play. In an age where the average individual is more sedentary than ever before, it’s our duty as adults to ensure our children are guided into a lifestyle where they are free to excel physically and, as a result, mentally and emotionally. 

What’s the government’s stance?

During the busy and turbulent period that is childhood, outdoor play helps to balance the lives of pupils at school. Playgrounds become an important element of a community and its school system, with Play Equipment able to support all children, including SEN pupils. 

The NHS supports this, with official government guidelines stating that every child who is under the age of five needs as much as three hours of exercise every day. The result? Better cognition, mental wellbeing and the improvement and strengthening of muscle, bone structure and the cardiovascular system. 

Social skills: A critical window.

For many children, it’s difficult to socialise. Whether through natural shyness or complex issues such as social anxiety and disability, it’s often the case that the crowded environment of an indoor area or school is too much for them to handle. 

Playgrounds and outdoor play provide an excellent antidote to this issue. Many children find themselves and their ability to play with others in an outdoor environment, helping them to develop confidence where they would otherwise be limited. In this way, pupils and young children outside of school both are put on a path to a better development into early adulthood. Better yet, the diversity of play available leads to the development of teamwork and cooperative skills, which can stay with a child for life. 

It helps avoid nearsightedness. 

Although a child’s heredity will largely determine the development of something such as myopia, it’s also scientifically proven that outdoor play and exposure to sunlight is protective in this sense. There are numerous studies available which now demonstrate this, finding a strong correlation between time spent playing outdoors and a reduction in myopia. These studies were performed as recently as 2016. 

In this way, it’s great to think about outdoor play in a well-equipped area as something akin to a medicine that you can prescribe to a child. The more they play regularly throughout the week outdoors, the better their health will be in a wide variety of ways – including their vision. 

It broadens their view of the world.

The element of exploration common to outdoor play cannot be overstated in value. Important and valuable in the development of a bolder, more socially comfortable child, outdoor play has also been shown to enrich a child’s life by helping them to experience new concepts. 

Once more, recent studies show a link between the physical and visual experience of things and the development of the brain. Even language is aided by outdoor play, with the same studies indicating that a child can more easily link concepts and things to words if they experience them directly, such as when they touch a tree. 

A worthy cause.

We hope these brief examples of the value of outdoor play are thought-provoking and of interest. We must do all we can to enrich the lives of our children, encouraging our local authorities and communities to prioritise SEN-inclusive playgrounds and outdoor play. 

By doing so we set our children on a trajectory towards the best possible life for them, helping them to grow and develop into healthy and happy adults in time.