The Importance Of Outdoor Play When Children Return To School During Covid-19
As teachers and children return to school during the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of outdoor physical activity has never been more important.
There are no two ways about it - the pandemic has affected everyone. We’re not all in the same boat, but we’re caught in the same storm, and we are all dealing with additional stresses, in one way or another, because of how it’s affecting our lives and the people we care about.
Children have been stuck at home and had their “normal” change in an instant. Teachers have seen their “job description” change dramatically in such a short space of time. Everyone is working to find solutions and cope with changes - it’s little wonder that things can feel out of our control and it can be overwhelming.
How Can We Look After Ourselves?
One thing we do have in abundance, is the chance to be creative in building outdoor physical activity and exercise into our everyday living - and to use it as a strategy to take care of our physical and mental wellbeing during stressful times.
We’ve all seen the photos on social media of children getting out and about on their bikes and scooters, and adults attempting new physical challenges - with varying levels of success but good effort all round!
It’s made us laugh (or cry!) and it’s what we need. Health experts recommend that people spend time outdoors when they can as a way to improve their physical and mental health, especially when they’re facing a time that’s immensely tough on both body and mind.
Now that schools are open to everyone again, and adapting to a different way of doing things, it’s the perfect time to make the most of outdoor spaces within the school grounds. The more time spent learning outdoors, in the fresh air, the better.
The general advice is that where groups of people are together, it’s better to be outdoors than in. It’s harder for viruses to spread outdoors than it is indoors where they sit on surfaces and linger in the air.
Covid-19 is more easily transmitted in closed areas, where there’s less ventilation or room for airflow. Outdoors, where there is naturally more vigorous air movement and more room to separate from others, the risk of contracting the virus is lower.
Of course it’s never been an option to run a school entirely outdoors and reality dictates that pupils need to be in the classroom for much of their learning.
However, there is so much that can be done to facilitate outdoor learning for large parts of the day, and to allow class groups to use the outdoors effectively so there is more room to spread out between one another indoors.
Outdoor Classrooms, gazebos and covered playground canopies are obvious solutions. Your school may have an underused or forgotten corner of the playground that, with a few simple changes, can be transformed into a beautiful outdoor reading or breakout space.
The type of ground surfacing you have will determine whether it’s suitable for continued use in all weathers and all year round, and this can be altered to suit your budget.
Multi Use Games Areas for sports allow you to move all of your PE lessons outdoors, so there’s no need for children to be running around within the confines of the school hall.
Children need to do at least two types of physical activity each week in order to stay healthy. This includes aerobic exercise, such as running, as well as exercises to strengthen their muscles and bones - ideally split over an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a day, across the week.
Is This A Priority At The Moment?
It’s not just about children's physical health and development. Spending time outdoors and active can alleviate stress and be a super-effective treatment strategy for symptoms of both depression and anxiety. This is as crucially important now for teachers coping with the load, as it is for pupils coping with the changes.
Isolation and solitary confinement are not good for us from a mental health perspective - few people cope with it well and children especially find it difficult. We are yet to see the long-term effect that this pandemic will have on all generations following such sudden reduced social contact and changes to routine.
Children have missed their classmates and the social aspect of school - but now - every day that they are back in school is a wonderful new opportunity to engage in outdoor social and physical activity, playing, learning and exercising together.
And this will undoubtedly bring both short and long-term benefits for everyone’s mood, concentration, sleep, physical health and well-being.
Do you want to make the most of your school’s space for outdoor learning? Are you looking for fresh ideas and inspiration? We can help. Our experienced education experts will help you to get what you want out of your school grounds to suit your budget. We’re very much up and running, and we have developed new ways to conduct playground consultations safely. Contact Us here and we will work around you.