Last week there was a Big Wild Sleepout.
This was an event initiated by the RSPB encouraging families to sleep out of doors. But even if you didn’t take part all outdoor time is essential to children’s wellbeing and helps promote the importance of our connection to the natural world.
There have been increasing concerns about the dwindling amount of time children spend outside, particularly in a natural environment and the effect this has on their health and general development. Especially since so many now spend hours on sedentary activities often in front of a screen.
So this needs to be balanced with more outdoor activity. On the website Academia.edu Dr Nicola Davies writes about ways to encourage your children off the indoor couch.
Outdoor play or sport is the most common way, but many learning activities can be conducted outside. (There’s a good article here from Natural England on outdoor learning). Taking their study outside means they’re out in the natural light and indirectly connecting with the world around them. This is important because:
- Natural light has an impact on our emotional wellbeing as much as exercise does. Emotional and spiritual wellbeing affects children’s achievement and learning success. It helps regulate the children’s moods and maintain calmness.
- When outside children are more likely to be moving around being physical. There is a tendency for education to focus on mental activity, but physical activity is an important stimulant to mental achievement. And like natural light it helps the children keep calm by using up that boundless energy all children have, making it easier for them to sit still and concentrate when required. Physical activity also plays a part in developing confidence as well as bodily strength and health.
- Time outdoors will help to dispel the sense of unease that children can develop by not being familiar with the outside world. This is not so much about stranger danger as anxiety about dirt or mud, insects, bugs or harmful plants like nettles, or the effects of sunshine or allergies. Our attempts to guard against these have become too inhibiting.
- Being outside brings children into contact with the species around them, plants, insects and animals. This helps increase their knowledge and is an opportunity to raise their awareness of the need to preserve habitats.
- As well as habitat, it is also important for children to learn about the earth itself; its properties and cycles, weather and climate, and how it fundamentally provides us with everything from food to the materials for homes, industry etc. Being outside and close to the earth means a greater awareness and understanding.
Being outdoors is the best way to connect children with their real world. And is an essential part of their education.
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