Learning & Development

How Outdoor Play Improves Mental Health

little boy pedalling on an arm pedal bicycle at school

Outdoor play brings with it a whole host of benefits to the physical, social and mental well being of children. The first thing you probably think of when associating outdoor play equipment and health is physical exercise. Helping children associate physical exertion with fun, can encourage them to continue their healthy lifestyle later in life which brings with it a wide range of physiological benefits.

There are a whole host of ways in which outdoor play equipment for schools can improve the mental health of children as well. Red Monkey Play purpose-build each play area with the aim to create a safe and exciting opportunity for children to experience healthy physical, mental and social development.

We pride ourselves on crafting unique and engaging sensory playground equipment and fun environments for children which are vital in developing crucial skills, encouraging outdoor learning and of course exercise. Keep reading to discover how outdoor play equipment for schools improves mental health and general well being. 

The Link Between Physical Exercise and Concentration

The link between physical and mental health is particularly important for children, as they are still undergoing cognitive, physical and social development. Therefore, it is vital that we give them the right building blocks to acquire healthy habits and improve mental wellbeing.

There are many physical health benefits from using outdoor play equipment. Exercising can be a great way for children to shake off the dreaded afternoon tiredness. A quick session playing and learning on adventure playgrounds will get their blood pumping, help beat fatigue and they’ll have the mental break they need to complete the rest of the school day – without having to think too much about the challenges they face in classroom scenarios.

Furthermore, psychologists have proven that getting regular bouts of exercise can make notable improvements on children’s attention spans and ultimately boost their happiness whilst back in the classroom. Being outdoors is the perfect place to stimulate both active learning and sensory learning. Time outdoors also provides a much-needed change of scenery. Attention spans in young people are often low, so mixing things up and taking learning away from the classroom helps to continually challenge their social and mental development by helping them apply their social learnings to a new environment.

One influential study measuring the effect of regular exercise on children with ADHD strengthens these claims. The study found that those children (aged 8-10) who participated in a 20-minute session of aerobic activity showed far greater response accuracy than those who were involved in a seated reading session. 

Ultimately, this study concluded that “moderate-intensity aerobic exercise may be an additional treatment modality for children with ADHD” and can be of benefit to all children generally. Most children at this age are naturally curious, and an outdoor environment really stimulates all their senses and lets their imagination go wild.

Sunshine Makes Us Smile 

Most simply, outdoor play is crucial in allowing children to get the necessary dose of vitamin D from the sun. There have been many studies in recent years evidence that the majority of people living in the UK are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is vital for maintaining and regulating a number and physical and mental processes. Most famously, vitamin D promotes healthy bones, largely by promoting the absorption of calcium.

Getting a healthy amount of exposure to the sun is also known to reduce anxiety in children and boost overall mood. Sunshine increases levels of serotonin which help promote feelings of happiness and relieve stress. Serotonin is an important chemical produced by the body which is believed to regulate and maintain healthy energy and mood levels. Meanwhile, low levels of this chemical can bring about bouts of impulsivity, aggression, anxiety and depression.

Another benefit of the added sunlight from outdoor play equipment for school will be seen upon the children’s’ sleep schedules. Sunlight is vital in regulating the internal body clock and supporting healthy sleep. For children who are growing, an adequate amount of sleep is absolutely vital to physical and cognitive development. 

Stress Relief and Mental Well Being

A recent British study found that outdoor play for as little as five minutes a day is thought to help relieve stress and anxiety in children. The science behind this revolves around the idea that such outdoor activity reduces damaging levels of the hormone cortisol in the brain. 

Known more commonly as the “stress hormone”, cortisol is dangerous in high levels amongst children, as psychologists believe that it can eventually hardwire pathways within the brain way to become mode predisposes to a state of “fight-or-flight”. Therefore, outdoor play equipment for skills can provide stress relief and regulate mental well being amongst children. Ultimately, researchers concluded that “the environment provides an important health service” amongst young children.

Outdoor Play and Cognitive Development

Outdoor play improvement does not only boost children’s’ mental well being, but it also brings huge benefits for their passion for learning and cognitive development. Outdoor sensory playground equipment comes in varying textures, with chutes and passages for children to explore during their time away from learning.

Combined, all of these elements can be used to test children’s senses, minds and mental ability and ultimately further their psychological development. There are various challenging elements and puzzles incorporated into our outdoor play equipment to keep those young minds constantly developing and learning.

Creative thinking will also be boosted through the use of expertly designed outdoor play equipment.  Regardless of whether children use play equipment as their “base” in role play games, or they come up with inventive new ways to enjoy the equipment, it will undoubtedly stimulate their minds and imaginations and help them to develop more creative skills.

How We Can Help

With imagination at the heart of everything, Red Monkey Play have been capturing the imagination and attention of school children for over 20 years – whilst always maintaining the use of safe and environmentally friendly school playground equipment.

We at Red Monkey are experts in playground design, making sure that children can learn through play in the school’s outdoor spaces. Our outdoor playground equipment is made bespoke to your school so therefore can fit any school setting, including both early years nursery and primary schools. 

We work with schools and nurseries across the UK to create stunning and exciting playgrounds – and we’d love to work with you too. Discover more and explore our wide range of sensory playground equipment, suitable for a range of ages and abilities. 

Get in touch today to find out how we can restore the fun into your playground and help your children develop in the process. 

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