Boost Your Pupils Mental Well-being Through Outdoor Play

School Mental Health And Outdoor Play

After seeing all of the conversations surrounding World Mental Health Day recently, we wanted to write a blog post about how important it is to encourage good mental health in children.

We could have included some shocking statistics, or maybe an inspiration quote.

But if we are being totally honest, that felt a bit pointless.

Because we all already know that fostering good mental health and mental well-being is extremely important – especially for children.

And we all know that more must be done to help children form healthy habits that will boost their mental well-being as well as their physical health. What is often overlooked though, is the importance of play.

However not all types of play bring the same benefits to children’s mental health. It’s well documented that too much screen time can be damaging  – however active, outdoor play can work wonders.

A study by the American Medical Association concluded that “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier, when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors.”

This was supported by a study performed across 2016 and 2017 by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University. This research confirmed that life satisfaction and happiness are higher for people who are physically active, and their levels of anxiety are lower. “We now have conclusive evidence that sport and physical activity are clearly linked to mental wellbeing,” says Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England insight director.

With children facing more academic and time pressures than ever before, it can be tempting to reduce the time allotted to play.

However, spending time out in the fresh air is a great way of clearing the head, offering time to relax, reflect, and give our brains a break. Children need this as much as anyone, given the amount of new information they take in during an average day in education.

Unstructured, outdoor play is even more important during winter months. When it is cold, wet and windy it can be tempting to keep children indoors. Whilst this may be the more popular (and easy) option, it can mean children suffer from a lack of direct natural sunlight.

This is important when considering mental health as natural sunlight is the best source for our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which releases serotonin (which helps regulate emotion and mood and is linked to happiness) in the brain. Children need healthy levels of Vitamin D and serotonin for their mental health and development. Lack of Vitamin D has been linked to mental illnesses, including depression. Allowing children daily outdoor playtime in natural light, ensures they soak up some nourishment for their brains!

If you’re worried about the lack of time your students spend outdoors our team are on hand with advice on how to transform your outdoor spaces into safe and engaging play areas.

Speak To Our Team