You may have noticed, if you follow our blog or social media, that we’ve been taking part in a Sugar Smart challenge. It’s all about educating our family about healthy eating and staying healthy generally. You may also have seen that we have recently moved house. A big move, out to the country. A big part of this decision was to be able to have more space for our very busy and active boys to be able to run and play.
The place we have moved to is perfect for this – we have acres of garden and orchard, with lots of natural areas to explore. Plenty of trees for building dens and playing among, and later for picking delicious fresh fruits to eat. Then just next door, we have the village playing field, playground and tennis courts. No more than a hop over the fence and our boys are playing football, running around with the dog, or exploring new play equipment on the playground. All of it without crossing a busy road, and within sight of our kitchen window (just about!). I’m tempted to say that we’ve found our piece of paradise!
Our boys are so active and full of energy, we feel it is so important to give them a positive way of burning some of that energy. We see a huge difference in their behaviour if they have been kept indoors. This is especially evident if they have been playing on electronic gadgets, they really need to get outside and let off steam. All of the pent-up excitement of video games needs to have a physical release for them. Different types of activity give them different benefits too, from fitness to teamwork, balance, problem-solving, or learning about nature and their environment. I can really understand why schools are encouraging more ‘outdoor classroom’ work.
A new house has also meant a new school for our boys. I find it interesting, if a little alarming, that both our old and new schools have issues with their playgrounds. Our last school was a complete new build, but unbelieveably, no budget was given within the build for the provision of a playground or any play equipment. Unfortunately, the damage to the school field caused by the building process also meant that the children were without a playing field for over a year, which was totally unacceptable. We used to joke that the teachers must give the children Skittles and Red Bull right before home time because the children came out so hyper and wound up! Of course it was because they weren’t using up enough energy with play at school.
In our new school, a portacabin for nursery provision was removed by the Council, but the mess left behind was horrendous and never properly made good. A space with so much potential, but no money to do anything with it. Luckily, the children are at least allowed to use the field, which is actually a community facility, to play on during the day. This has made a huge difference to our football-mad boys, who have formed instant friendships in their new school through a love of sport.
Why is it so important to have good outdoor play facilities for children? Recent research has shown that as many as 1 in 3 children between the ages of 2 and 10 are overweight. Playground company ESP commissioned independent research at Liverpool John Moores University, which found that in school PE lessons, 68% of a child’s time was spent stationary. This helped ESP re-define their unique solutions and supporting tools to ensure that this figure was improved.
The first part of an independent study carried out by Roehampton University following an ESP installation demonstrated a positive impact as a result of the installations of the Multi-skills Zone and the professional development training of staff. Approximately 70% of children recorded using accelerometers increased their activity levels. Initially the playground had more impact on the activity levels of boys, but over time the girls increased their activity levels more (8.6% v 6.9%).
So, good evidence, both anecdotal and analytical, that outdoor play and good play equipment can have a positive impact on children’s activity levels and behaviour. But until we are all lucky enough to have schools who are able to provide the best equipment and spaces, we can at least get our children outdoors, in a playground or just a playing field. Let them enjoy the fresh air and exercise that they all deserve!
Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post
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