It’s time to head outdoors

min read

The improved learning that comes with spending time outside.

Guest Blog by Dr Andrew Rochford

I love the outdoors. Always have. As a kid I didn’t think much of it. It’s just what we did. Wake up. Eat breakfast and go outside. I definitely didn’t do it to make me better at school. I did it for the fun.

Whether it was exploring, playing, helping in the garden whatever, it didn’t matter as long it was outside, and I was having fun. But it would seem that dirty knees and good times wasn’t all I was getting out of the time I spent outdoors.

It is essential that children, especially the young, get frequent and regular opportunities to explore and learn in the outdoor environment. In recent years there has been a cultural shift in our society that has reduced the access and use of the outdoors for many young children. Contributing factors include increased fear amongst adults in relation to children’s safety and technology leading to an overwhelming prominence of more time spent sedentary indoors watching television or playing computer games. But there are some pretty powerful arguments for taking every opportunity to send the kids outdoors, and a lot of them aren’t just about the physical benefits, they are also about the learning and concentration.

Children greatly benefit developmentally from being outdoors. Outdoor education and play support emotional, behavioural and intellectual development. Studies have shown that children who play and learn outdoors develop: a sense of self, independence, confidence, creativity, decision-making and problem-solving skills, empathy towards others, motor skills, self-discipline and initiative.

Other benefits for kids spending time outdoors include:

Increased development of effective and inquisitive thinking along with problem-solving approaches in ‘real’ situations
Development of resilience and adaptability in occasionally adverse circumstances
It allows children to become more able to identify hazards and risks
They develop a love, appreciation and respect for nature and all that is living and a better understanding of how we can look after our environment
Develop self-awareness, confidence and self-esteem
Develop games that encourage collaborative-working and communication skills

So as much as that’s a very encouraging list and we all want our kids to go into well rounded, healthy, intelligent, caring humans that perform well in school, there’s a lot more to being outdoors than just that. Anyone who has flung open the doors following a week of rain to see their kids bound outside into the sun, splashing around in the remaining mud will admit it’s hard to top the pure enjoyment, sense of wonder and excitement that is generated. In those moments I reckon its best to focus on the fun.

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