A Guide to Outdoor Play and Mental Health

Play and mental health may not be obviously linked. But as schools, parents and pupils begin to reintegrate some of life’s pre-covid structure, how can we best support children who have missed out on key development stages of socialisation and interaction this past year and a half?

Well, outdoor learning and interactions are a key element of that rebuilding and are now more essential than ever.

Re-balancing emotions with outdoor play

By re-engaging and positively stimulating children through outdoor play, we help to re-balance the negative mental health see-saw this pandemic has placed them on.

Schools have a responsibility to ensure the best possible practices are in place to help reduce children’s stress, anxiety and fears. Something as simple as being outside during this delicate time can be a big plus for children. Playing freely with friends and peers enables them to process their experiences. It also develops resilience, and schools must ensure they encourage this.

recent study reported that in pre-adolescents there was a ‘20% increase in hyperactivity/inattention, and a 35% increase in conduct problems’ as a result of the pandemic. But one of the best ways to help reduce these behaviours and encourage positive mental health is through the joys of play. Play refocuses children through exertion and re-balances necessary hormones in the brain.

Outdoor play reduces anxiety

The physical benefits of exercise are well-known to be effective for every age-group, but especially for children. It is important that their energy is positively directed as they begin to re-navigate the world of social interaction in school. Outdoor play is particularly beneficial during times of anxiety, stress, and adversity: it provides a sense of control and independence; it helps children make sense of things they find hard to understand; it supports their coping and resilience.

Including sensory play accessories in the playground is also a great way to encourage brain-developing stimulation and reduce stress and anxiety.

Learning outdoors reduces transmission rates

Alongside positive physical and mental health benefits, the risk of infection transmission’s greatly reduced by outdoor learning in study huts.

Schools Week reported that ‘an increase in play-led outdoor learning in schools can pave the way to better outcomes for children at school and in the community, now and for the rest of their lives’.

We can use additional equipment to set your school up for maximised outdoor play and mental health benefits. Equipment such as clamber climbers or activity frames ensure positive mental health benefits. This type of play is great for individual or group activities. with students using their motor skills and developing coordination.

These practices build confidence, allowing children to feel autonomous after more than a year of confinement.

The right equipment for positive play

It’s becoming clearer that physical play, engaging the imagination and encouraging safe outdoor interaction is one of the most progressive pathways in ensuring the optimal mental health for young learners. By purchasing equipment that encourages children to exercise, you’ll be investing in the mental health of the next generation.

That’s where Playcubed comes in. We supply and install state-of-the-art play equipment for schools in London and the South East of England. With our help, you can give children the perfect environment for safe, engaging play that boosts their mental health. Sounds good? Contact our team today to discuss your requirements.