Five reasons going outdoors improves children’s mental health and wellbeing

19th March 2018

Outdoors is where children can most be themselves. There’s something about open outdoor spaces, where there are fewer rules and restrictions, that is exciting for them a form of escapism. The sense of freedom gained from playing outside and running without limits, brings a happiness that is hard to rival.

When it comes to children’s mental health and wellbeing, regular opportunities for outdoor play are paramount.

Here are five good reasons why:

1. It gives children a break from busy schedules

Spending time out in the fresh air is a great way of clearing the head, offering time to relax, reflect, and give our brains a break. Children need this as much as anyone. Time away from school work, homework, busy schedules and demanding routines. Time to have fun just playing and doing whatever the mood takes, enjoying life in the outdoors and doing something that makes them feel happy.

2. Sport participation and physical activity lowers anxiety

Studies reveal a link between participation in outdoor sports and activities, and significant improvements in mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing in children. A study in 2017 by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, confirmed that life satisfaction and happiness are higher for people who are physically active, and their levels of anxiety are lower.

“We now have conclusive evidence that sport and physical activity are clearly linked to mental wellbeing,” says Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England insight director.

3. It has a positive impact on mental health

Recent studies have reported a significant increase in mental ill health in children in the UK. Among other things, a lack of regular connection to the outdoors and participation in outdoor activities are major contributing factors.

This could be for a number of reasons; lack of access to facilities, parents’ fears for children’s safety, too much reliance on screens and computer games as a form of entertainment. Thankfully modern society is recognising this, but we still have a way to go in getting all children outside

4. It helps kids top up on vitamin D

Often during the cold winter months, children suffer from a lack of direct natural sunlight. The sunlight is the best natural source for our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which releases serotonin (which helps regulate emotion and mood and is linked to happiness) in the brain. Children need healthy levels of Vitamin D and serotonin for their mental health and development. Lack of Vitamin D has been linked to mental illnesses, including depression.

Allowing children daily outdoor playtime in natural light, ensures they soak up some nourishment for their brains!

5. The outdoors relieves stress and anxiety

Time spent playing outdoors is thought to help relieve stress and anxiety for children by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol in the brain. A recent study in the UK found that even just five minutes of exercise in a natural outdoor environment can rapidly improve sself-esteemand mental health and wellbeing in young people.

Many schools are getting in on the act, with improved outdoor provision and after school clubs. In areas where there is limited access to open outdoor space, schools are often the main hub of sporting activity, and are increasingly offering their facilities to community groups for use outside of school hours.

What outdoor adventures will your children enjoy today?

Emma Homan is an Educational Copywriter for Pentagon Play who design and install outdoor learning environments for schools and nurseries across the UK.

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If you would like children to spend more time outdoors, sign up your class or whole school to Outdoor Classroom Day, and share your day’s activities on social media using #OutdoorClassroomDay

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Thanks for joining the movement we can’t wait to see what you get up to on the day! Please share this with your colleagues and friends to help us make it possible for every child to get outdoors to learn and play every day 🙂 Check out the resources tabs for ideas for the day – and to make learning and play part of every day!

Wohoo! Top marks for signing up!!!

Thanks for joining the movement, we can’t wait to see what you get up to on the day! Please share this with your colleagues and friends to help us make it possible for every child to get outdoors to learn and play every day 🙂

Thank you for supporting Outdoor Classroom Day!

We’ll send you a newsletter shortly. Time to play is critical for every child – share your moments with us by tagging #OutdoorClassroomDay and make every day a day to learn and play outdoors!

Wohoo! Top marks for signing up!!!

Thanks for joining the movement, we can’t wait to see what you get up to on the day! Please share this with your colleagues and friends to help us make it possible for every child to get outdoors to learn and play every day 🙂

Thank you for supporting Outdoor Classroom Day!

We’ll send you a newsletter shortly. Time to play is critical for every child – share your moments with us by tagging #OutdoorClassroomDay and make every day a day to learn and play outdoors!

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