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Importance of Outdoor Play

Steven sits the whole day, focussed on his laptop, playing his favourite computer game, while his sister Mary is glued to the television, watching the cartoon network television channel and, on the other hand, their baby sister spends her whole day, cuddling her dolls and putting them to sleep, while locked indoors. This is a typical scenario, whereby many English households are restraining their children to indoors, where they spend their leisure time. This is a disturbing trend that has been caused by a variety of reasons; the most important among them is that many children have been subjected to adult-like timing conditions, where they leave for school early in the morning and return home late in the evening. This leaves no time for the kids to enjoy time out in the openness of the fields. Another quick reason as to why outdoor play is becoming less popular day in day out is the stiff competition it faces from the electronic media. Many would ask what these electronics such as computers and play stations can offer that outdoor cannot offer, but I can say categorically, there is a lot of benefits that outdoor has to offer. Through this document I am going to highlight the reasons why children should be given this opportunity to go and play outdoors. Restraining children to indoor play has led to people who are lazy and less creative in their work and studies (Little 2006, p. 4). Such laziness is depicted in the inability of the affected persons taking short walks, performing simple house hold chores or even participating in outdoor sports.

The advancement in technology, though it has made life easier, has made many children to shun the beauty of nature, as they spend more time exploring social sites and playing computer games other than taking time to participate in activities such as tree climbing, fishing playing hide and seek, football and other games that the parents may feel are safe for their children. Such outdoor activities create a sense that stimulates the way a child thinks and acts, which has the positive impacts on the rational thinking of that child (Bundy et al. 2009, pp 63-67). Pyle (2002, p. 2) has put emphasis that through the entire mankind history, the most cherished play place for the children has been in the openness of nature. Chawla (1994, p. 7) goes on to say that it has been observed that the modern society does not recognise such environments and have taken it upon themselves to have their children spend their time indoors. With such an insight, we have a task in our hands in which we have to explore the opportunities that will have positive effect towards the current and future generation of children, regarding how recreational activities are carried out. Moore (1997, p. 31) has clearly put  that children have the need to express their thoughts and beliefs in addition to listening to others perspectives. What this implies is that indoor recreation, especially television watching and video gaming is one way communication and the child does not have that one on one interaction that he or she can give a feedback to. The television does not acknowledge the emotions in the kid contrary to a scenario, where the child was outside, playing with his or her friends, where they could exchange ideas, bringing that element of “live” interaction. Pica (1997, p. 118) suggests that it is very important to create a play environment that fosters a healthy future for young children, arising from the fact that young children are the most observant and inquisitive beings and, therefore, need an environment that will add value to their learning.

The objective will be to critically understand and explain the importance of outdoor play in the development of children. The paper will critically discuss the article in relation to the importance of outdoor play and its impact on the future lives of children. I take a look into the activities that children may undertake in playgrounds help them to absorb and understand the different situations that they may observe in the playground. I will show the many advantages that outdoor play bears to the children and why it should be emphasised in strengthening and broadening the understanding and experiences of the children, as they grow from one level to the other and towards becoming responsible adults. These views and insights are based on outdoor activities, derived from a report by Trisha Maynard on encounters with Forest School.

Why this Specific Project was Chosen

Outdoor play is a phenomenon that everyone experiences in their life time (Cohen 1992, p. 2). Every individual has had an interaction with fellow peers, while in the open areas; it was in the backyard of their home or in the playground of their school. Such activities come in different forms and the focus in choosing this topic was to highlight the importance of having outdoor play emphasised the current generation of children in order to impact the bearing of their future life. In the current times, the activities that children undertake outdoors are perceived to be riskier than those undertaken indoors. These risks include playing near hazards, such as building sites and railways,  throwing objects at the shop windows and the risk of the children, getting lost without a trace (Little 2006, p. 4). However, the fear to these risks has led the caretakers of these children to place them under over-regulated play settings that may result in the stemming of unwanted behaviour in the children. This may be as the result of pressure build-ups, arising from the children, seeking to face the challenges of being locked indoors. With this in mind, I found it comfortable to choose and work on this project in essence that the outdoor activities that children undertake are good for their psychological as well as physical development (Clare and Garnier 2000, p. 86). In that matter, it is important to understand the concept and scope that Forest Schools present to the modern society, regarding child play. This topic needs to be dealt in detail, but here are some of the benefits that Forest Schools may present to our younger generation and their parents, regarding the importance of outdoor play.

Forest School Projects

The Forest School is a flexible approach that allows for differences, provided that the ultimate goal is to enable children learn and play outdoors. Since children are susceptible to outside dangers, it is mandatory to make the activity as safe as possible. The teachers carry out activities to assess the risks that are associated with outdoor activities. Another important feature of playgrounds is that they help to flourish the personality of the child (Tudor-Locke et al. 2003, p. 27). When the outdoor activities in schools are designed in a creative manner, children express themselves in a natural way. It must also be known that the children feel free from all hassles, when they are in an open setting (Tudor-Locke et al. 2003, p. 28).

The open setting is in itself a motivation for children to express themselves with all force and versatility (Maynard 2007b, p. 383). Children are able to shout and run in the freedom without the fear of disturbing the internal peace of the home. This relieves them of the pressure that builds within them relaxing their nerves (van Praag et al. 2000, p. 97). Another thing is that the guardians need not to be there to supervise the children. It has been observed that children do not like supervision during outdoor activities, as pointed out by Ward et al. (2008, p. 207).  Awareness, coordination, balance are some of the traits that are learnt by children in early ages. Soler and Miller (2003) point out that the aspect of flexibility also adds to the list of positive features that outdoor play activities present to children (p. 13). They continue to say that the adrenalin rush that comes with the aspect of outdoor play, arising from the awareness of potential dangers, associated with outdoor play, helps the children to explore themselves, devise and adapt methods, in which they learn to cope and avoid such risks in their daily life (p. 15). Outdoor play also reduces the self-regulated boundaries and maximizes the sense of freedom, choice and control (Soler and Miller 2003, p. 16).

It is imperative to help children realize what has been termed as their eco-psychological self. Phenice and Griffore (2003, p. 9) believe that the innate sense of children character must be determined with the outside world, and the best way in which the children can interact with and learn from the natural environment is only through outdoor play. During such activities, the children’s minds are relaxed, composed and they can clearly observe with freewill unlike during forced field trips, where the children are commanded on what to observe and what not (Ward et al. 2008, p. 301). Shultz et al. (2004, p. 220) have said that the level, to which a person believes is component of nature, can be correlated with constructive environmental attitudes. The research investigation has also confirmed that children's constructive encounter with environment can show the way to progress of an ecological ethic. The sense of child’s connection with nature indicate that understanding of the association of humans to nature is together partly inclusive and under creation in early infancy (Penrice and Griffore 2003, p. 47).

Louv (2010, p. 38) has pointed out that to develop the understanding of children with the natural world must be the foremost objectives of adults, when the child is young. The onus is on the parents to make the child understand at a tender age about the importance of nature and telling the child that humans have a relationship with nature in natural way. All such exercises help to construct a positive view of the nature and the surrounding in the mind of children. As these children grow up they respect their surroundings and this attitude is important for all of us to come up with an environment that is free from adverse effects that may harm our lives Maynard (2007b, p. 385). Such educational values are best achieved through allowing the children to have ample time of outdoor play.

When these children will grow up, they will realize the importance of a surrounding that is healthy and beneficial to the society at large. Outdoor playing activities are just an element in the development of the whole child, despite the fact that risks may be involved, as pointed out by Sharp (2004, p. 21). Therefore, the scope of learning that outdoor activity provides and promotes the permissive ethos towards physical challenge and offers a diverse natural environment. The importance of outdoor activities can be emphasised by the fact that it helps children to explore, take risks and absorb the different knowledge that they come across during the games they play (Waller 2006, p. 38). This knowledge is priceless for the child’s development of intelligence and wisdom that may not be learnt in the classroom or in any other confined place.  

Fjortoft and Sageie (2001, p. 4) conducted a research study, in which two groups of children, attending the same Montessori, were selected. One group of children regularly visited the outdoor surrounding and allowed to play for at least two hours. On the other hand, the other group had only limited access to the natural setting. The report found out results that were significantly different in every aspect. The group that was more exposed to the natural surroundings was found to be more comfortable and had gained extra knowledge about the natural settings. Another research that was conducted by Bell et al. (2008, p. 83) showed that natural surroundings have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the children.

The emotional part of the child also experiences signals that are special to occasion that the child is engaged in (Wells and Evans 2003, p. 18). The health wellbeing of the child is boosted, when the children are engaged in outdoor play. Lovasi et al. (2008, p. 52) also emphasize on the importance of natural surroundings and in their research, they explain that trees may assist in avoiding early childhood asthma in urban areas for the reason of air quality. Rose et al.(2008, p. 3) also give a medical reason that may help children to avert myopia or short sightedness. The growth of myopia can be decreased considerably if a child gets three hours daily sunlight. Allowing children time to play in the lawn will expose the children to such environment.

The reason why outdoor play has been on the decline is partly due to the increase in traffic and other unethical activities about paedophiles on the sprawl, taking advantage of innocent children (Sharp 2004, p. 15). The concern of paedophiles is an ever increasing concern for the parents, as all these stories make rounds in the media. Despite the existence of such threats, the positive features of outdoor play outweigh the negative features. The onus is on the community planners to devise strategies that would support the importance of outdoor play (Clements 2004, p. 84). In incorporating the concentration of children, Forest School is endowed with unusual starting points and right content for individual kids. In the course of cooperating with peers, concerning individual interests, the children become motivated to utilise what they learnt during the experience. In addition, it makes possible the socialization of children. Biased attitude can be eliminated by approving that every individual must be respected and everyone must show tolerance by working as a team (Dahlberg et al. 1999, p.17).

The open-air environment has a propensity to captivate, hence, stimulating the natural curiosity of children. This curiosity will advance the analytical skills of the child to solve complex problems (Bundy et al. 2008). It supports and encourages the children to recognize their true self and it helps them to build up their enthusiasm and wits in relation to their potential role in the society. Children in a range of difficult situations adjust unenthusiastic point of view towards play and happy interactions (Derr 2006, p. 74). The children who might be suffering from a personal dilemma, like residing in an orphanage, or are disabled may feel enthusiastic about outdoor activities and it builds their self-esteem as well.

Even though the idea is brilliant and the setting is natural, there is still some lacking in this type of practice. The foremost aspect is that the activity must be performed from the perspective of the child (Bundy et al. 2009, p. 5), or else the outdoor activity may not be fruitful. Therefore, the activity must be made in such a way, so that the goals that are to be achieved remain achievable. Furthermore, it must be guaranteed that the children are enjoying their stint with the natural world and the teaching is not forced on them, otherwise, these children would disassociate with the nature in future (Little 2006, p. 131). However, the positive features outweigh these little limitations by far, and the endeavour should be such that the administration with the help of the whole society must make this concept a widespread phenomenon in UK.

Parents are now more apprehensive to send their children for outdoor play. There are many reasons, attached to this fear, and the parents have every right to guarantee that their child is safe (Little 2010, p. 147). Safety concerns are the foremost issues that compel parents to keep their children indoor. Furthermore, many parents who are busy with their jobs and spend less time with their children would want them to spend the rest of their daytime either in the safety of the indoors or accompanying them at beaches and other places. As the modern world has become extremely violent, there is always a fear of an unknown calamity that might happen (Little 2010, p. 153).

In this context, schools, like the Forest School, are interesting and a safe option for the parents to take their children to. Children will spend considerable time outdoors at school; therefore, there is no issue of safety. The parents are assured that their kids are in safe. Parents can also play the part in informing their children about the importance of natural settings (Clare & Garnier 2000, p. 18). The family provides the children with interesting and important things, therefore, children should be taught at young age on how to develop emotional connection with nature. These emotional insights will develop the understanding of what is right, what is wrong and a sense of belonging for the society. The value of home and family life in helping young children to develop learning has a significant impact, as shown by Kristensen (2001, p. 41). The quality of the home environment is one of the few factors that can lead to children developing higher intellectual, social and cognitive skills in future life.

Consequently, the significance is to value cooperation, contact with people, and acknowledging accountability most important positive effects. Whatever the society may be, the emphasis is now on freedom and spontaneity of play and as such, there is a focus on open access provisions (Tranter & Sharpe 2008, p. 13). From the perspective of sustainable development and the long term well-being of children, numerous projects have been launched to provide a complete provision of excellent outdoor activities. When creating time and space for the play, it is useful to become aware of the fact that children are attuned to details such as when, where, with whom and how the activities take place, as they learn to distinguish play from other activities through their experiences.  

In order to encourage children to take a playful approach to a wide range of activities, the parents and the teachers can ensure that the play is not restricted to a specific location (Clare & Garnier 2000, p. 62). More importantly, it must not be unnecessarily timed or be a secondary activity. The time that is available for play does not need be excessive and children seek out opportunity to play from their busy schedule. If the children are in control of play, then, the likelihood of them getting bored, restless or prematurely interrupted can be kept to a minimum (Tranter & Sharpe 2008, p. 28). From these observations, there is a need to support the outdoor play. The parents and the society must provide outdoor spaces with access to natural features and implementation of play sites that are safe and will add value to the children’s life.

From the research, it can be summarized that outdoor activities that are presented at Forest Schools are meaningful in engaging young children to explore their own personality with the nature. The health of the child has also been shown to get better, when they get in contact with the natural surroundings. The findings are now taken seriously across UK, as this outdoor play increases the quality of learning for the children. Many people have started to encourage such schools that have a strategic intent in shaping the society a better place.

Once it has been determined that children have to be taken outside to play, the selection of site should be carefully considered. Sites, where waste material are thrown or is exposed to any other hazard, may end up doing more harm than good, rather than providing a constructive facet of the overall activity. It is the responsibility of the schools to comply with the government regulations, as well as seeking permission from parents (Dowda et al. 2004, p. 188). Moreover, it is the responsibility of the school to guarantee that children do not engage in vandalism or any unwanted acts, associated with outdoor plays. This includes having responsible people anonymous to the children, keeping an eye on them, when engrossed in their activities.

If the environment at home promotes tolerance and learning, then, the development of the child will have opportunity to converse and learn from fellow human beings. Having parents accompany children in their outdoor plays not only develops the bond between the child and parent but also it has been shown that the engagement of parents have an overall positive outcome on the child’s health as the amount of time children spend with their parents is persuasive (Kristensen 2001, p. 29). The experience of being ‘parented’ is probably the strongest influence on the attitudes as well as the behaviour of children. Although, parents may have clear views about their preferred ways of raising a child, there is a growing awareness that others may adopt a different approach. The reality is that it is a cumbersome task to raise children nowadays, when parents have other commitments. Even if parents cannot afford to send their children to Forest School, they must assure that their children are exposed to the outside world reasonably enough, so that it can nurture their personality in a positive way for the future and the entire society has to endorse it. 

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