Why Children Need To Play, At School And At Home

Children love to play outdoors

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.

Huge garden in the country
Huge garden in the country

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.

Outdoor classrooms provide a very positive learning environment
Outdoor classrooms provide a very positive learning environment

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.

Making friends through a love of football
Making friends through a love of football

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.

Children love to play outdoors
Children love to play outdoors

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%).

via million eyez

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!

Get outside and play, wherever it may be!
Go out and play!

Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post

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Join the discussion about why children need to play, at home and at school. What facilities do you need? Why do you think it is important?
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12 Replies to “Why Children Need To Play, At School And At Home”

  1. You’re right this is SO important for kids to understand where activity fits in with their lives and health. Not just for their bodies but also for their mental health. Exercise produces endorphins which help induce a positive state of mind and combat any worries they may have.

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Absolutely Claire! Thanks for your comment.

  2. I completely agree and i dont think it matter what the weather is either kids just love being outside! My kids love any kind of play whether its games indoors or playing in the park!

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Yes, mine too Deborah.

  3. I like knowing my kids are playing safely at school and at home too. Great post.

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Thank you!

  4. Play of all sorts in an essential part of growing up to learn how to use their developing skills and apply them appropriately with their peers

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Very much so Laura

  5. I just read a different article talking about how kids who go to an academic based preschool are better off than kids who go to play based preschools. My husband and I are trying to decide which we prefer, and this certainly gives a different perspective. I wish you wouldn’t have quoted actual studies so I could dismiss it. Lol. I’m starting to feel like I’m not qualified to raise my own child. Internet information overload!

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Oops sorry to have confused you, but at least you have different perspectives now. Perhaps there is a middle ground? Children learn a lot of academic stuff through play too. Good luck with your choice.

  6. My son is a full time wheelchair user. The nearest play park with more than one piece of accessible equipment for him is almost 100 miles away. I wish designers of parks would understand that disabled children need physical play too.
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    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      That must be so hard for you both. I hope at least that his school has better facilities for play.

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