Today schools are a wonderful environment for children. They are places with access to exciting playgrounds and indoor spaces filled with fun toys and equipment. We all know it’s important for children to exercise and ample time spent playing outside is beneficial for children. But while learning-focused playgrounds and structured play can greatly aid children’s learning and development, exploring the great outdoors is equally as important.
Pupils also need time to be creative and imaginative without structure; for example, in open spaces where they can create their own playgrounds from the world around them. But open green spaces can be hard to come by in the increasingly built-up neighbourhoods that we live in. So looking for areas near you or better still at your child’s school that provide these is a good consideration when deciding where to live and send your child to school.
Benefits of children playing outside
In the eyes of a child, any space can be turned into a spaceship, a castle or a fantastical land filled with magical creatures. Curiosity and imagination are some of the most treasured qualities in children. The Land in Plas Madoc demonstrated how inexpensive and non tailor-made facilities such as upcycled objects can be a land of wonder for a child.
While purpose-built creative playgrounds are fantastic spaces for children, a simple school playing field can be just as inspiring. By providing open, unorganised spaces for children to use and explore, you are presenting kids with a blank canvas onto which they can create their own worlds.
Playing outside sparks children’s imaginations making their own worlds, games and rules. This form of explorative play is useful when learning scientific subjects. Creative thinking fosters innovation, problem-solving skills and thinking outside of the box, all of which come in very handy when presented with challenging or complex concepts in science classrooms such as new experiments or explaining difficult theories like quantum theory. By exposing children to unstructured areas such as school playing fields, we are encouraging them to think in a way that can be applied to their academic lessons.
Boosting memory and maintaining concentration
Regular breaks away from the classroom are important in order to keep pupils’ minds fresh and alert during the day. While recreational tasks such as drawing and reading can provide a welcomed break from lessons, getting outside into open green spaces can refresh our minds significantly.
Time spent in more natural settings has been found to boost concentration and lower stress levels. One study found that walking in natural environments such as parks or open fields boosts working memory more than walking in urban environments. Just a short exposure to open spaces may help to boost children’s working memory which will aid their learning back in the classroom.
There are key psychological benefits for being in open spaces too, as well as physically letting off steam and lowering stress. Spending time outside in natural environments makes us happier, reducing feelings of depression as well as boosting self-esteem and our general mood. Research shows that being around nature helps us connect to others, feel more content and happy in ourselves as well as feeling less stressed.
Spending regular amounts of time playing outside –– whether independently or in group activities –– can help students to stay calm and connect with each other while also improving their ability to concentrate when they head back into the classroom.
While free, unstructured play outside is great for expanding young, creative minds, taking part in team games, group activities and outdoor sports also helps children develop their emotional processing. From learning to play together as a team, how to communicate effectively with others, to learning how to share, playing outside with others is one of the best ways children can learn how to manage and develop their emotional intelligence.
Outdoor team sports are fantastic for encouraging children’s emotional progression, because not only will they learn to manage team dynamics and handle winning and losing, they will also be reaping the benefits of being outside at the same time. Outdoor activities help children to keep physically fit while having fun, building up their physical stamina, strengthening their muscles and bones and improving their hand-eye coordination.
The wild playgrounds
Despite various studies which have proven that green spaces help early development in children, more and more schools and communities are losing their traditional sports playing fields and open spaces. This can mean that you are travelling further simply to find areas for your children to play and explore which are not purpose built or urban playgrounds. As we mentioned above, having an unstructured, outside green space for pupils to explore and fuel their imagination is undeniably advantageous in the short and long-term.
Whether it’s playing sports like rugby, cricket, netball or hockey to taking the classroom outside, Cranmore students love making the most of this open space. Thanks to the Henderson Fields, our students have plenty of room to have fun with several level pitches for playing sports, as well as a mini-golf course, cross country route and Forest School. Come and visit Cranmore at our open morning on the 2nd March 2019. You can see first-hand our extensive sport facilities, inside and outside of the school, and maybe have a run around yourself!