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The myths about outdoor play that mean your children may be missing out

What are your most treasured childhood memories?  My bet is that very few of them are indoors, and even fewer involve an adult.

Building dens, climbing trees, baking mud pies were every day fun for my generation, but today, things are a bit different.

Over the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors.

And the results aren’t good.

Earlier this month I took my five-year-old on a trip to the park, armed with gloves, hats, and a carrier bag to collect acorns and conkers.  Not only did we see no rain, sleet or snow, but we also saw no other children.  A sunny Saturday in October and the park was deserted.

The birds were out, the leaves were plentiful amongst the grass (perfect for scuffing), and when we wondered down to the local beach to search for shells, the sea played its part and put on an amazing show of white-crested waves.

We talked about the tides, erosion, sea life and the changing seasons, all before mid-morning snack.

So where were all the other children?

Most of them were probably indoors.

The reasons for this are varied.  ‘Stranger danger’ and increased levels of traffic on the road to name just two, but the one we get asked most by parents at Naturally Learning relates to the health implications of playing outdoors in the Winter.

benefits of outdoor play“At Naturally Learning we operate a forest school all year-round, whatever the weather.  We ride outside on bikes, grow vegetables, play in the mud, and explore nature’s playground every single day, whether it’s raining or not.” Janet Pollard, Naturally Learning’s Forest School co-ordinator.  “The benefits of outdoor play far outweigh the risks, and these can be overcome by simply dressing in the right gear.”

The benefits to children of free and unstructured play in the outdoors are huge:

  • boost problem-solving skills
  • increase fitness levels
  • develop focus and self-discipline
  • improve cooperation
  • advance flexibility
  • reduce stress levels and anxiety
  • foster critical thinking skills
  • increase self-awareness and happiness.

It even helps everyone get a good night’s sleep.  But what about staying healthy?  Keeping warm in the Winter?

forest school naturally learning“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes,” continued Janet Pollard.  “The children at the nurseries wear all-in-one outdoor suits, hats, gloves, scarves and wellington boots, as well as waterproofs, so going outside when it’s raining is almost more of an adventure than when it’s dry!”

Inspired to get outdoors?  There are plenty of things to do on the National Trust website (we love 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾) or come along to one of your local Forest Schools in mid-Cornwall:

Lostwithiel on a Tuesday morning, 10:00-12noon

Charlestown on a Wednesday morning, 10:00-12noon

Poltair on a Friday morning, 10:00-12noon

No need to book – just come along with your children and join in the fun.

Making memories that they’ll treasure starts right here….

PS And if you need more reasons to reconnect your little ones with nature, come and join us for the screening of the national Project Wild Thing in Lostwithiel on 15 November.

Guardian article, August 2010
Modern parents, messy kids blog, October 2012
Benefits of outdoor play

2 Responses to The myths about outdoor play that mean your children may be missing out

  1. Kierna October 30, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    Great post, how sad that the park was empty but hopefully if we as early years educators infuse. Love of the outdoors in the children in our care, they will gradually begin to get their parents outside too. Off to share. Kierna xxx

    • NaturallyLearning November 3, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      Hi Kierna, thank you for your comment and your support – hopefully we can all do our bit to reignite that passion for nature! x

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