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5 reasons outside learning is good for your child

From better mental and physical health to improving confidence, al fresco learning can be just as rewarding as studying in a classroom according to a local expert. Muddy heads outside to investigate.

Kids love being outside. The amount of muddy jeans I have to regularly wash is proof alone that they like nothing better than getting their hands and knees dirty bug hunting, climbing trees and rolling down hills. And as they get older the need to be outside only seems to grow stronger, from playing sports to sitting in the park. Yet lockdowns and ever-increasing screen time mean children have actually never spent more time indoors. 

In 2021 The Big Ask survey – sent out nationally by the Children’s Commissioner for England – attempted to discover what kids post-Covid wanted. When the results came in it was clear: to be healthy and able to play in safe, open spaces. 

Terence Ayres, the recently appointed headmaster of St Nicholas School in Harlow, is a major advocate of this, believing kids and young people “yearn for an engaging education that goes beyond the walls of the classroom”. His school offers all kinds of open-air activities, including a new forest school with mini farm, an outside butterfly garden used as a space for ‘reflection and contemplation’ and an early years eco garden and muddy play area. 

Who better to sit down with and discover more about outside learning and exactly why it’s so beneficial…

1. IT IMPROVES MENTAL HEALTH

“There’s considerable evidence to suggest that time spent outdoors in nature increases life expectancy, improves wellbeing, reduces symptoms of depression and increases a child’s ability to function in school,” says Ayres, who goes on to point out that outdoor learning has also been proven to reduce stress. “Time in green spaces significantly reduces your cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and nature boosts endorphin levels and dopamine production, which promotes happiness.” So if you want happy kids, you know what to do – turn off the screens and get them in the garden. 

2. IT IMPROVES PHYSICAL HEALTH

This one’s a no-brainer. Sitting on the sofa watching YouTube is never going to make your kids fit and healthy (though it might mean they know a lot about cat memes). “By going outside, children are more active and lessons can take a more unconventional approach,” explains Ayres. “Having frequent opportunity to move around is essential for childhood development. Moreover, the opportunity to get active whilst learning helps to burn off some energy and can help to prevent childhood illness.”

3. IT CONNECTS CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE TO NATURE

According to Ayres, humans have natural biophilic tendencies (an innate desire to seek connection with nature) and that now, more than ever, children want to learn about the natural world and how they can play their part in preserving it for future generations. He says, “With the emergence of environmental role models their own age, children and young people care deeply about green issues.”

4. IT DEVELOPS KEY SKILLS, SUCH AS COMMUNICATION

“Outdoor learning helps develop many key skills, including problem solving, patience, resilience, independence, and confidence,” says Ayres. He also believes it’s essential for team and trust building and developing communication skills, all areas teachers identified as key to focus on after the second lockdown.

5. IT’S FUN!

Ayres is keen to point out that, while the benefits above are great, one of the most important points is that learning outside is fun! 

“I can think of nothing better than hearing the buzz of excitement and laughter that outdoor learning generates. Whether it is jumping in puddles, lighting fires, baking mud pies in mud kitchens or camping out on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition, outdoor learning provides children and young people with memories that last a lifetime.”

Amen to that. So, next time your kids leave forest school covered in mud and begging to bring ‘special’ sticks home (what is that all about?), just remember they’re happier and healthier for it. 

Find more ideas here

EducationKids

2 comments on “5 reasons outside learning is good for your child”

  • Christine Carter June 5, 2022

    I love the idea of children being out and one with nature. I wrote a book in lock down about an Oak tree and its inhabitants with lots of tasks for children to do and follow the tree through all the seasons. I would love to get it publish and see all the school children follow the trees life but unfortunately as an unknown I am finding it hard to find a reputable publisher all just seem to want me to pay to get it published. Is there any way you could help me.
    Regards

    Reply
  • Rachel June 5, 2022

    Totally agree! Scouts and Guiding is a brilliant way to get these opportunities and skills (at very low cost due to the amazing volunteers that run things locally!) and they have been doing so since 1907!
    It would be wonderful if you could mention this opportunity along side schools.

    Reply

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