01 Mar The Outdoor Play Revolution: Why Do Children Thrive Outdoors?
Enjoying the benefits of the great outdoors
UK children spend less than hour outdoors per week – but spending time outside can have significant benefits for a child’s physical and emotional development.
Many of us remember spending a lot of time playing outdoors as children. However, the same can’t be said for the current generation of children. Recent research has shown that three quarters of British children spend less than 60 minutes outdoors per week – that’s less than a prison inmate! This was backed up by another report which discovered that more than one in nine children had not visited a natural environment, such as a beach, forest or park, in at least a year.
There are a number of factors involved in these results. Many parents are nervous about allowing their children to play outside without their supervision, and the rise in technology means that many children prefer to spend their time in front of a screen instead of in the great outdoors. There are also added pressures on children these days, such as extra homework and after school clubs which can mean fewer opportunities to play outside.
What makes these results particularly concerning is that children actually thrive outdoors, and it holds many benefits for the social, education and personal development.
Fitter, healthier children
Playing outside offers undeniable health benefits for children. There is somewhat of a childhood obesity crisis in the UK, with almost 10% of children starting school in England classed as obese. In order to stay fit and healthy, children need a significant amount of exercise. Spending time outdoors is a great way for children to get the exercise they need without it seeming like a chore – whether that’s riding a bike with friends, climbing trees, going on a family walk through the woods, or playing games on the beach.
Psychological and emotional wellbeing
As well as the benefits it offers to physical health, spending time outside can also have an impact on children’s psychological and emotional wellbeing. Studies have shown that children who regularly spend time outdoors see a significant increase in creativity and learning abilities, as well as an improvement in conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. One study from the University of Essex also discovered that just five minutes of “green exercise” can greatly improve mental wellbeing and self-esteem
Skills and development
Having the opportunity to spend time outside is also crucial to children’s personal and educational development, helping to boost focus, self-discipline and problem solving abilities. It also enables children to make sense of the world around them, and set and test their own boundaries. Playing outdoors with other children also improves social development and gives children the opportunity to learn how to successfully work with and cooperate with others – vital skills for later life.
Many people cite a shortage of accessible green space as a reason why children spend less time outside, but you don’t need a huge woodland on your doorstep to enjoy being outdoors. A couple of hours spent playing in the local park or even in the back garden can be just as effective. Even fake greenery offers benefits, and we as artificial grass installers are seeing a rise in the uptake of artificial lawns, both by families and by child-focused organisations such as schools and nurseries. As well as being weather-proof, artificial lawns are also extremely durable, perfect for the rough and tumble of childhood games.
The advantages of spending time outside are undeniable. So, as spring approaches, turn off the television, power down the iPad, and spend time as a family enjoying the great outdoors. Your children will thank you for it!