Fun Outdoors

OK for some it may be a black & white memory, but even without the rose-tinted glasses we can cherish the large chunk of our childhoods that was spent in the open air simply soaking up the elements. We can't forget all that timeless freedom; all that independence? Well those basic desires and needs exist in our own children. Today.

Yes, maybe more than ever before, children need an opportunity to stretch their wings and venture securely into the big wide world. With parents harbouring growing fears over traffic and 'stranger danger', along with the worry of the influence from other young people, children are spending a vast amount of time indoors. This, in turn, is having a significant negative effect on their health and fitness. To tackle this growing trend of poor health and obesity and stop it escalating, is to address the issues affecting outdoor play both at home and at school.

Outdoor Play at School:

  • Play Times are crucial exercise breaks for children. Research from University College London has shown that at school play times children expended more energy than they do during the whole of the rest of the school day (excluding PE lessons).
  • Although PE and games lessons are more energy-intensive, they take up a much smaller portion of children's school time than play times.
  • Over a full week, 17 per cent of children's activity energy expenditure is during breaks, although those breaks account for only 5 per cent of their time.
  • PE, the most energetic part of the school day, lasts for only 70 minutes a week.

Creating a Landscape:

It's a well-documented fact that when the landscape of play areas within schools is developed, children become inspired and achieve greater social interaction. A representative group of children can rub shoulders with governing bodies, designing a playground in a series of workshops. This 'team approach' ensures that the school grounds are sculpted into play areas which are both imaginative and practical. If school hours are extended to incorporate after-school clubs, the need for inspirational play areas will be greater than ever. Improving school grounds is very much on the agenda of the DFES, who have piloted a three-year programme called 'School Grounds of the Future'. This is managed by the national organisation, Learning Through Landscapes.

So, What can be done to increase the amount of time that children play outdoors?

Proposals by the Children's Play Council suggest that supervised play provision should be available for children whose parents do not want them playing out without adult supervision. This can be done by:

  • Employing trained playworkers as 'Rangers' in parks and open spaces to attract and support children's play
  • Providing staffed play spaces such as adventure playgrounds and play centres.
  • Ensuring long term revenue funding for play projects which offer children a range of outdoor physical activities.

They can 'Play in the Garden':

Parents can encourage outdoor play by developing their own gardens into a play zone. By acquiring toy equipment for the garden, parents will feel reassured. It was they who chose and pieced together the toys that are in use, and they know exactly where their children are. With fewer suitable areas away from the home for children to play in, there has been a growth in demand for various outdoor toys such as trampolines, swings, slides, treehouses, playhouses and climbing frames. Trampolines, listed as one of the Top Ten Toys this Christmas, are found behind many a garden fence. Other safety issues spring up with these bouncy devices.

Trampoline Safety Advice:

  • Clear all objects from around the trampoline.
  • Do not place the trampoline near trees, fences or too near the house.
  • Buy and use a frame pad that covers the entire area of the spring system.
  • Develop rules for trampoline use, and discuss them regularly with your child.
  • Ask your child to remove any restricting garments.
  • Ask someone to train your child how to do more complex moves.
  • Ensure that only one person uses the trampoline at a time.
  • Do not allow children to bounce, then jump off the trampoline