Would you like your children playing outdoors more this year?
So here we are again. Christmas is once again “as far away as it will ever be” as my Grandma always says. Father Christmas has packed away his sleigh, kicked off his big black boots and put the kettle on, and the reindeers have gone out to grass to get some well-earned rest!
We hope you have enjoyed the Christmas holiday as much as we have. Actually, with all the build up to Christmas and New Year, December in the UK feels like one big month of indulgence. So many lovely sparkly things out there to enjoy and delicious food and drink to tuck into! And with the short days and cold wet weather that December brings, it’s far too easy to lock ourselves indoors and sit around on the sofa munching away and watching repeat family movies. According to statistics, the average calorie consumption in the UK on Christmas Day alone is between 5,000 and 6,000 per adult (more than double the recommended intake!). And no matter how good we are at keeping on top of our children’s diets throughout the rest of the year, it’s almost impossible to keep track of what they actually consume throughout December (nevermind ourselves) especially with all those wonderful parties and selection boxes.
After all that over indulgence it’s no wonder we often find ourselves starting the New Year full of good intentions. Some of us succeed and some of us fail in our new year resolutions, whether we plan to give something up or change our behaviour patterns in some way. Well here’s a positive resolution that we can ALL make and keep. Instead of giving something up - get outdoors and take up enjoying the open air!
This is something really important that we can do for our children as they are so often exhausted after all the excitement of Christmas. It’s no secret, that early nights and lots of fresh air are wonderful remedies for this. It may be chilly out there - but if they are wrapped up well, nothing is more invigorating than a winter walk in the fresh air! And this doesn’t just apply to the January blues, it’s important all year round and that is as good a reason as any to make getting our children outdoors a resolution that we stick to throughout the year.
Here’s why getting outside is such a big deal for children of all ages
There are endless physical and mental health benefits to spending time outdoors for our little ones, and schools have a really big part to play as they structure outdoor play and activities into daily routines. Whether at EYFS, Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2 level, and throughout the curriculum at Special Education Schools, outdoor activities play a key role.
Alarmingly, a briefing from the Office of National Statistics published at the end of 2015, which offers a profile on the latest trends in children’s mental health, shows a significant increase in mental ill health in children in the UK. It is well documented that there is a strong correlation between outdoor activities and exercise and lower levels of depression and stress. This is one of the main reasons why schools for children with Special Educational Needs are continuing to place a lot more emphasis on outdoor recreation and learning through nature.
Many children with Special Educational Needs, and particularly those with autism and/or ADHD, regardless of the cause of their condition, often become overly fearful and nervous and suffer from stress. They are usually in highly structured indoor learning environments for large parts of the day, but they can also benefit greatly from good outdoor experiences. Being outside allows children to be influenced by the flow and pace of nature, seasons and time. It can have a very calming effect, and we can all enjoy a sense of calm created from an environment where nature is all around us, doing its own thing in its own different and unique ways.
As well as having a calming effect, we know from experience that regular access to fresh air improves a child’s energy levels. Fifteen minute bursts in the fresh air can help to reduce sluggishness and refocus the mind. This is really important for many children with Special Educational Needs who might need help to adjust their bodies and minds so that they have a better chance of succeeding in the classroom and in daily life activities that they need to perform. And if we are lucky enough to find that the sunshine is out, well that is enough time to give our children’s bodies a good dose of the necessary daily levels of vitamin D!
There is a rising level of child obesity in the UK
Another huge concern among health professionals at the moment is the rising level of childhood obesity in the UK. The World Health Organisation regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges for the 21st century, and the number of children who are obese has more than tripled in England over the past 25 years.
There is a lot of media coverage on this issue at the moment as it is of such great concern, and we are now well aware of the negative effects that too much sugar, and a lack of general and sufficient exercise, has on our children today. But the good news is that once they get up and out there, most children absolutely love being in the great outdoors, and it is such good exercise for them. There are so many different activities that they can do, moving and working their bodies in different ways, there really is something for everyone. And the best form of exercise for children is when they don’t even realise that they are doing it! Moving around and stretching their muscles, they can end up out of breath, but in their eyes, they are just having fun running around and playing games!
Looking for ways to get your children embracing the great outdoors?
Where to get started? Budget blown on Christmas? Nevermind that. Stepping outside is free! Hurrah! Getting your children to wrap up in their cosy hats and scarfs and taking them out for a winter walk is so invigorating. It’s a beautiful time of year to be out and about. Ok so the days may be colder, shorter and darker, but the crispness of the air and the patterns of the frost making everything sparkle in the low sunlight makes a wonderful feast for little eyes. The novelty of being able to see their own breath and blow steam clouds of their own mouths never seems to wear thin!
There is plenty of winter wildlife to see and talk about while walking through a local park or the school playing field. Can anyone spot a robin redbreast? You can play hide and seek, tag games, set up a treasure hunt or bring along a bat and ball for a game of rounders. Additionally, such places provide natural obstacle courses with hills and bends and uneven surfaces. Exposure to different landscapes, walking up and down hills, running around trees and climbing over fallen logs, not only provides good cardio and muscular exercise, but helps build up strength, core stability and balance.
If you are lucky enough to have access to a well-equipped playground, then there is even more that you can do to get your children exercising and having fun in the fresh air. A well designed playground is the perfect place for children to work on their motor skills, balance, spatial awareness, muscular strength and general fitness, as well as providing a great boost for their confidence levels and social skills. Climbing, scaling, sliding, hanging, swinging, jumping, stepping, running and balancing on playground equipment set up on different levels, provides endless physical challenges for children’s bodies.
If you want to re-vamp your outdoor play area for the New Year, or would like some ideas as to how you can make your outdoor space exciting, inspiring and different, simply Contact Us through the website. If you’d like to explore our website, we have plenty of brilliant outdoor play and exercise equipment suitable for EYFS, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2 and Special Educational Learners. We also have some great ideas to help you encourage your children to engage with the great outdoors.
So let’s get our coats on and get out there! It will do us the world of good as well as the kids! Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year.