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Children Need More Time Outdoors

Playing outdoors is important for child development. Beyond the years of childhood there is also so much to gain from the outdoor playground as adults. You may be surprised to discover that a recent survey concludes that 75% of children spend less time outside than a prison inmate per day. 

The gains from being outdoors are limitless. There is so much to explore, to discover, to embrace. 

When given the choice most children would no doubt opt to be outside. To run around. To be free. Making noise, chasing their friends, watching the birds, kicking a ball, feeling the rain, riding a bike. Yet we limit the time they have outside because boxes need to be ticked with regards to targets and the curriculum. Some settings also do not have space and time can be a real issue. 

Instead of being given the freedom to work on skills that can benefit a child throughout life such as making friends, spacial awareness, physical development - we put these opportunities on a back burner. Children only have an opportunity to do these things for a short time (if at all) during the day. They sit, confined to the same four walls for far too many hours - day in, day out.

Life is incredibly fast paced these days. Parents are working long hours meaning the opportunity for 'free time' to go out exploring together - just simply isn't there. 

Lets take a closer look at the results of the survey. 

Conducted by the detergent company Persil, 2000 parents shared just how little time their children spent outdoors. The majority of the parents in the research also shared that their children spend far less time outside than they did as children. 

Children are sadly spending less time - wondering through woodland, running wild in the fields and playing freely in the parks. 

74% of children spend less than an hour outside every day. 

1/5 of children do not spend any time outside on an average day. 

The survey was part of a campaign by Persil - 'Dirt is Good'. Britains Environment secretary Liz Truss shared that just 10% of children have access to outdoor learning. 

UN guidelines recommend that prison inmates get at least an hour of exercise outdoors per day. Meaning that prisoners are spending more time outdoors than children.

There is so much to discover in the outdoor environment. Playing outside increases flexibility and improves motor development. 
Outside they have the opportunity to develop self confidence and satisfy their physical and exploration needs. 

Its offers free space to practice and work on skills. Space to breathe in the fresh air and engage in unstructured play. It's a play ground for limitless learning. 

The frustrating thing about less outdoor play is - if you give children more time to be free and engage in activities and play of interest outside - they will be more focused and receptive to learning in the classroom. Quality of time learning inside after a Quantity of play outside.

There has become such an obsession on academic performance. In 2016 after a trend of cutting back on outdoor play and break times in favour of spending more time 'learning' in the classroom - health and exercise researchers from 8 different countries released a statement. Together they stressed to parents and educators that physical activity is beneficial to cognition and doesn't negatively affect academic performance, in fact it enhances it even further. 

We must keep fighting and working on our timetables to get children outdoors and actively doing more. Pen to paper doesn't work for all. Variety and more free time for unstructured play is the key for success. 

Where you can take your lessons outside. Plan practical. 

Didn't have a good night with the kids last night? Get outdoors for a walk. Even if you only make it around the block. Exercise and being outdoors helps give perspective. It's great for the mind. 

Lets continue to work together to ensure the children in our care are being given more freedom to explore outdoors, and all the wonderful things it has to offer. 

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