Outdoor development: enabling children to confront nature

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Everyone from children to teachers and parents have changed their attitudes when it comes to both nature and the outdoors over the last few decades. During the 1970s to the late 1990s, to be sent to the bedroom for a child would be considered a punishment as they wouldn’t be able to play outside; now, the bedroom is no longer considered a punishment.

Helping this along has been advancements in smart devices, game consoles and social media platforms enabling an alternative reality to be created by youngsters in their bedrooms. This is distracting them from what’s going on outside of their window though, an investigation by Infinite Playgrounds, a natural outdoor playground equipment designer, has established from the following  investigation into how and why a child’s experience has been limited when it comes to the outdoors in the modern age:

How the home has changed for kids

Did you know that children in Britain watch more than 17 hours of television each week? This is in spite of the fact that the internet and smart devices have transformed how youngsters learn, play and communicate. As well as this, children are also spending more than 20 hours a week online — mostly spent on social media apps and websites.

It only stands to reason that kids will view nature and the outdoors differently when these devices and experiences are available to them from the freedom of their own bedrooms. A screen-based lifestyle is considered by many as one of the main reasons why more children are choosing to stay indoors, instead of going outside. However, some also believe that although smart technologies can be educational, it is the well-meaning sensibility of parents that are limiting children when it comes outdoor play.

Bringing unsupervised play into the mix

Adding to how people’s attitudes to the outdoors have changed is the fact there’s been quite a reduction in the radius around the parental home where children are allowed to play. Since the 1970s, this area has shrunk by almost 90 per cent.

Consider as well that in 1971, 80 per cent of seven and eight year olds were allowed to walk to school either alone or with only a friend. Two decades later, this figure has decreased to 10 per cent, most of whom were accompanied by their parent or guardian. If this is the case when walking to school, then the chances of a child roaming freely in natural settings with their friends is slim. No one is at fault in this scenario, parents simply want their children to remain safe; however, an almost overprotective approach can compromise a child’s mental and physical health.

The call for children to be urged to play outdoors

Children should still be encouraged to play outdoors as much as possible. In fact, this should be an everyday experience from an early age, so to maintain a modern society that sees people remaining healthy throughout their lifespan.

Natural landscapes can help with this, as such structures allow kids to play in ways that are imaginative and varied. By going beyond the boundaries, children can open themselves up to new experiences and sensations that they may not have otherwise experienced. Our natural world is highly complex, with an abundance of shapes, textures and spaces for children to explore, discover and hide within.

Playing outdoors and around natural settings also gives children more likelihood of remaining fit and healthy. This is because outdoor play is associated with an active lifestyle, whereas inactive lifestyles are associated to those who remain relatively immobile indoors.