Why is outdoor play for children so important?

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Recently, an artist called Eric Pickersgill published a series of thought-provoking photographs called “Removed”, which show the everyday life of people interacting with their mobile devices. The subjects of these photographs were asked to hold their gaze and posture as the photographer removed their device and then took the photo.

Pickersgill wanted to show how the joining of people and devices is becoming “rapid” and “unalterable”.

One of the photos shows three children sitting next to each other on the sofa (below), all focused intently on the space between their hands.

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Photo by Eric Pickersgill. VIEW FULL PROJECT

Images like these are a stark reminder of the scenarios which play out every day in family homes up and down the UK.

The artist said: “Despite the obvious benefits that these advances in technology have contributed to society, the social and physical implications are slowly revealing themselves.

“We rest back to back on our sides coddling our small, cold, illuminated devices every night.”

He has a point.

Growing up in the 1990s (or earlier!), it was typical for parents to shoo their children outside once school had finished. Children of all ages were actively encouraged to play outside until it got dark and then they were called in again.  During the summer months, the thrill of climbing trees, exploring and doing handstands with friends on a playing field would keep children occupied for hours on end.

Nowadays, it seems that play has moved indoors.

Childcare practitioners, working alongside parents, must encourage outdoor play as an essential tool for children’s good health. From strengthening their immune system, to the sensory experience of soil and water on bare skin, to getting their daily dose of Vitamin D – outdoor play provides a whole host of fantastic benefits for children.

Here’s a rundown of just a few of these:

  1. Children have a chance to burn off excess energy and relieve stress
  2. Children who play outside are more physically active, which helps prevent obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems
  3. Children who play regularly in natural environments have a chance to build on and develop their motor skills (agility, balance, co-ordination)
  4. Being outside offers more opportunities for creativity and free play
  5. Children who play outside have higher levels of Vitamin D, helping to ward off health issues like Rickets
  6. Outdoor play offers children a chance for more social interaction with peers
  7. Research has shown that children are less likely to engage in bullying when they play in natural environments
  8. Children learn to build a strong link with physical health and outdoor activity from a young age
  9. Children who spend time outside have better distance vision than those who primarily play indoors, according to a study by Optometry and Vision Science
  10. Children learn to interact with and have a better understanding of the natural world

So…fling the doors of your setting wide open, and encourage your children to get out there and play together in the fresh air!

 

If you’d like to find out more about how you can promote learning through play, why not try our Level 2 or Level Play work courses? Contact us to find out more.

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