Why playing outdoors is great for children and parents

Walk on the Wild Side .

When did you and your children last dam a stream, skim stones or build a den together? Chances are it’s been a while. Our children are in danger of losing touch with the wonder of nature as they spend far more time indoors than was usual a generation ago. Parents often feel it is much safer for their children to play indoors, which is odd given who and what they may account on their computer screens. It seems that we are allowing our fears about the dangers of outdoor play to outweigh its enormous joys. Outside in the real world, on the streets, in parks, woods and fields, we have to use our ears and eyes and judgement, and take responsibility for ourselves and each other. Only in recent years, when fear of litigation has created a culture of excessive health and safety has that become such a novel idea. As Lady Allen of Hurtwood,  campaigner for children and advocate for more challenging playgrounds once said, ‘Better a broken arm than a broken spirit.’

Outdoor play has lots of obvious benefits for children: fresh air and exercise, of course, a break from the all-pervading grip of screens, but it teaches other essential skills such as risk assessment, decision-making, planning and co-operation – all of which can only be learned by actually doing them.

The National Trust has launched a new website 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ to help get children (and their parents) back in touch with nature. Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean we have to draw the curtains and stay inside (and many of the suggestions won’t cost you a thing).There are still blackberries to be picked, conkers to be found, leaves to be kicked and trees to be climbed. Get out there with your children and enjoy them.


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