Unlocking the benefits for children of play and outdoor learning

England has today moved to the next phase in the easing of the national lockdown, and the UK’s devolved nations are also in the process of gradually easing their restrictions. Now that spring has arrived, the evenings are getting longer and (hopefully) the weather begins to get warmer, there is much focus on outdoor activities, especially as the risk of Covid spreading is much lower outside than inside. On this website we have repeatedly highlighted the benefits of play and outdoor learning for children’s intellectual, emotional, social and physical development. And we have also been pointing out that ideas drawn up as short-term measures to support with post-lockdown recovery may well have long-term potential too.

In March, for example, we posted about a letter to the prime minister from a group of academics, highlighting the damage that lockdown has done to children’s health and wellbeing and stressing the importance of outdoor learning in the recovery process: “…children should be encouraged and supported to spend time outdoors, playing with other children and being physically active.”

We also featured research from the Youth Sport Trust showing the effects of lockdown on children’s activity levels. The charity said that its findings show “the urgent need for a renewed focus on sport and physical education” following the easing of lockdown.

However, as this Guardian article from 2019 makes clear, the pandemic is not the only reason why children are playing out less than they used to. As well as featuring a parent, a campaigner, an educationist and a street-play facilitator, all battling to reverse what is actually a long-term trend, the article also quotes the respected writer Michael Rosen:

We must have some free play: play as investigation; play as an activity that takes place without knowing what the outcome will be. I mean, how did any of our great inventions happen?

Michael Rosen, quoted in the Guardian article Children are stuck inside more than ever – how can we give them back their freedom?

Learning through Landscapes is a UK charity dedicated to improving our connection with nature by spending time outdoors. Sir David Attenborough is a patron. On their website they outline their vision:

…a society where the benefits of regular time outdoors are valued and appreciated, and outdoor learning, play and connection with nature is recognised as a fundamental part of education, at every stage, for every child and young person.

from the Learning through Landscapes website

In addition to guidance on play and outdoor learning, their website offers ideas and free downloadable resources to support teachers and parents.

Life-based learning emphasises the importance of daily physical activity, of playing sports and games, and of outdoor play and outdoor learning more generally.

Learning through Landscapes features in the Links area of the Forum website. There is a page for each of the nine life-based learning themes, with links (a) to sites with teaching ideas and resources for immediate use in the classroom and in curriculum planning (b) to a range of information-rich websites relevant to life-based learning.

We are always looking to expand the Links area of the website and welcome suggestions for additional links to high-quality websites. You can contact us here.

Image at the head of this article by FotoRieth from Pixabay

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