Children are spending less time outside and more time watching television and playing with phones and tablets. Does it matter? Research says yes. Playing outside benefits children’s physical and mental wellbeing and provides valuable learning experiences.
Stephen Moss in his report, Natural Childhood, for the National Trust, coined the phrase ‘nature deficit disorder’ to describe the sedentary, indoor lifestyle our children increasingly lead.
His research found children who spend a lot of time outside are physically and mentally stronger and maintain a healthy attitude to exercise into adulthood. They learn to challenge themselves and take risks; valuable skills for managing relationships and careers. Exposure to nature reduces stress and aggression in children and improves mental health in people of all ages.
In fact, children of all abilities learn more and learn better outside:
“…children who learn outdoors know more, understand more, feel better, behave better, work more cooperatively and are physically healthier”
Moss concludes that raising children to care about the natural world will make them more likely to protect and look after it for future generations.
In short, we have a duty to encourage our children to connect with the wild environment from an early age, for the benefit of their health, their future potential, their community and the environment as a whole.
Outdoor play and the EYFS
The Early Years Foundation Stage framework strongly emphasises the role of creativity, active learning and exploring as ways to help children engage with other people and their environment. Research shows these experiences help children to become effective and motivated learners for life.
An extremely effective way to get children to use their imagination and develop confidence in their abilities is to provide an environment full of possibilities, risks and challenges, then leave them to it. Where could be more perfect a place than the woods?
Children need freedom to explore
With dangerous roads and even more dangerous ideas about the state of the world today, our children can’t realistically go out on their own with friends discovering places to play, building dens and climbing trees. This romantic ideal of childhood is fading alongside the valuable learning experiences get from independent outdoor play.
Heart of the Wildwood provides safe places where children can explore and interact with the natural environment, take risks and find new ways to challenge themselves. Find a session near you.