Children who play outdoors regularly benefit physically as they tend to be fitter and have stronger immune systems, but the mental and developmental benefits are also numerous: they have more active imaginations, play more creatively, have greater respect for themselves and others and – as a nice bonus – have lower stress levels. So why aren’t we all going out to play more?
The rise of Forest Schools
As part of the backlash against children spending increasing time indoors Forest Schools have been on the rise, particularly over the last five years. But what are they?
Forest Schools aren’t actual school buildings built in woodland (though a few are), they are more of a concept where children take part in regular, outdoor sessions, based in a natural wooded environment and including a range of hands-on, practical activities. Children learn best from first-hand experiences, exploring, playing and investigating, so learning using a range of activities is what Forest School is all about. Forest School activities include things like den-building, working with wood and other natural materials using simple hand-tools, learning to tie ropes, caring for mini-beasts and plants, and even learning about fire safety!
These kinds of activities boost children’s sense of independence, high self-esteem and team work and build understanding and respect for the natural environment (and each other) over time.
This is why we were keen to embrace Forest School here at Eureka! Nursery. We’ve been running sessions with the children in our care since 2015 and we can tell you first-hand about the tremendous benefits, to both the children and our team!
There are countless benefits of outdoor play that have a positive impact on children’s lives but that also offer fun, playful opportunities for family bonding and boredom-busting, so the summer holidays are a perfect time to venture outdoors and get exploring. We’re incredibly lucky here in Calderdale to be blessed with amazing natural environments, all close at hand, plus of course wonderful parkland such as Shibden and Saville Park, so you won’t have to venture too far to get close to nature.
Coming out to play?
The key is to focus on fun but you don’t have to have grand plans, here are a few ideas for you to try out this summer:
- Create a painted rock garden – perfect if you’ve only got a small yard or even in a plant-pot on a window sill!
- Animal magic: No actual animals needed! Can you hop like bunnies, jump like frogs & slither like snakes?
- Outdoor Olympics: set (and tick off) a range of challenges such as rolling down hills, jumping in puddles, climbing trees
- Nurture nature: this is a perfect time to plant flowers and shrubs, so get your kids to help! Also get them doing really useful stuff like weeding and, in Autumn, raking up leaves!
Or simply planning a nature walk in your area is a great way to embracing outdoor fun with your child and remember, in the words of Alfred Wainwright “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”, so don’t forget your brolly!