Academics put outdoor play at the heart of children’s recovery

A group of child development experts have been in the headlines this week, asking the government to prioritise outdoor play over extra lessons and longer school days for children in the coming months as the country emerges out of lockdown and begins to return to something like normality.

In their letter to the education secretary, the academics, who call themselves PlayFirstUK, wrote: “There is understandable concern about children’s education but children will not learn effectively if their mental health is poor. Social interaction, play, physical activity and good mental health needs to come first.”

You can read the letter in full here.

The points made by the academics reflect priorities and concerns that life-based learning aims to tackle.

Dr Kathryn Lester, of the University of Sussex, said: “While there is an understandable focus on children catching up academically, we know that children cannot learn effectively when they are struggling emotionally.”

The Emotions and Mind learning themes are both predicated on the idea that emotional wellbeing is essential for effective learning, and that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

The letter also said: “As part of a wider recovery process, children should be encouraged and supported to spend time outdoors, playing with other children and being physically active.”

The Body learning theme focuses on children learning healthy habits for life and includes a whole-school activity programme so that regular physical activity is part of children’s daily lives. The social interaction that comes with outdoor play boosts communication and relationship-building skills, both of which are life-based learning themes. Meanwhile, recent posts on this website have highlighted the benefits of children learning about nature and the merits of outdoor learning more generally.

The Forum for Life-Based Learning believes that we need to reform the school curriculum for young children to meet urgent life challenges. Life-based learning addresses those challenges directly. It gives children the knowledge and skills to look after themselves, to create positive, long-lasting relationships in vibrant communities, and to live in an environmentally-friendly, sustainable way.

Image at the head of this article by Marzena P. from Pixabay.

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