We at Red Monkey Play believe passionately in learning through play. We design unique and engaging playground design and children’s learning areas for schools and nurseries. These all encourage learning through natural outdoor playtime. We work with our clients to create an exciting play area, designed to ignite imaginations and instil a love of learning.
Over time, schools have been moving away from this approach to learning. Cutting lunch breaks and outdoor time to cut costs. At home, children are moving away from the outdoors too, with parents too fearful of letting them out unsupervised and the overuse of new electronic entertainment systems. We think this is a tragic thing as playing with natural outdoor playground equipment can really help with children’s development.
The World Health Organisation recommends around 60 minutes of physical activity a day and schools should play a big role in helping this. Having appropriate natural outdoor play equipment can really help schools achieve this goal. Here we’ll take a look at some of the benefits natural outdoor play equipment can bring to your school’s outdoor space.
How Natural Outdoor Play Equipment Improves Physical Health
This is the most obvious one. If children are out and engaging with playground equipment they’re more likely to be fit and healthy. Playgrounds can encourage hide and seek, giving areas for children to run and chase each other and also hide. With children becoming more sedentary it is essential we have structures like this to encourage active play. We can even help encourage this as simply as adding painted running tracks or long jump markings onto the ground as we did at Pound Hill Infant School.
There are less obvious physical health benefits with outdoor play. A study published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that kids who spend time playing outside are at a reduced risk of developing “myopia,” or near-sightedness. There’s also the added benefit of increased levels of vitamin D thanks to more exposure to the sun. Vitamin D offers us several health benefits, such as strengthening bone health and helping to prevent diabetes and heart disease.
How Natural Outdoor Play Equipment Improves Mental Health
With mental health becoming less stigmatised and more easily diagnosed, we are seeing a rise in mental health problems across the country. A disconnect with the outdoor environment has led to an increase in mental health problems amongst children. One of the most tried and tested means to fighting mental health issues is the outdoors and exercise. In the context of a school, it is vitally important. Giving them a break from the indoor routine and relief from the pressures of achieving in class. A huge part of the learning process is the chance to relax and reflect.
Physical activity has a huge part to play in lowering anxiety for children. Children will naturally experience a lot of anxiety as they grow and develop as a human being. Helping them tackle anxiety head-on allows them to be more comfortable trying new things. Studies reveal a link between participation in outdoor sports and activities, and significant improvements in mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing in children. A study in 2017 by the Sports Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, confirmed that life satisfaction and happiness are higher for people who are physically active, and their levels of anxiety are lower.
Linking back to vitamin D in the previous point, the vitamin plays a pivotal role in our mental health. It helps to release serotonin (which helps regulate emotion and mood and is linked to happiness) in the brain. Children need healthy levels of Vitamin D and serotonin for their mental health and development. Lack of Vitamin D has been linked to mental illnesses, including depression.
How Natural Outdoor Play Equipment Can Improve Learning Ability
Getting outside is a great way to clear the head and be ready for any new mental challenges. As mentioned above, giving your brain a second to rest and reflect is important in the learning process. This keeps them more engaged in the classroom, where they stay on task much more easily and are less likely to be disruptive.
Learning comes in all forms and our equipment is designed to encourage learning. This can develop critical thinking skills by experimenting with their environment. Natural outdoor play equipment encourages skills used in the classroom, like collaboration and focus, in different contexts. Allowing children with different ways of learning to develop these cognitive skills how they need to will help equip them for learning at higher levels.
How Natural Outdoor Play Equipment Can Help Develop Creativity
Outdoor play is unstructured and while our natural outdoor play equipment is structured around learning, it is only encouraged. The children have to figure out what to do themselves. This leads to some great development of their creativity. As mentioned before, experimenting with their environment through cause and effect develops creativity and an understanding of the world.
One big way children can use their imagination and creativity is role-playing. We help support schools with natural outdoor play equipment designed specifically for role play. Outdoor wooden role play equipment is a key part in every child’s development, and our dens, houses and hideaways are the perfect places for kids to let their imaginations run free.
How Natural Outdoor Play Equipment Can Help With Social Skills
Kids can’t develop social skills properly interacting exclusively with adults. If a child doesn’t get to play games with other children much at school, then just returns home to their parents, their social growth may be stunted. With adults supervising from afar, these outdoor play areas are the perfect setting for children to play and socialise.
Playing team games or sports outside in these structured environments encourages teamwork, collaboration and communication. All of these are vital skills for learning and working life. They can solve problems and disputes together, becoming skilled negotiators. Our play equipment is designed to encourage social interaction, so investing in natural outdoor play equipment will equip these children for the future.
We here at Red Monkey Play pride ourselves in crafting unique and engaging sensory playground equipment and environments for children which are vital in developing crucial skills, encouraging learning and reaching goals. With imagination at the heart of everything, we have been capturing the attention of school children for over 20 years – whilst always maintaining the use of safe and environmentally friendly playground equipment in the process.
We work with schools and nurseries across the UK to create stunning bespoke playgrounds – and we’d love to work with you too. Discover more and explore our wide range of sensory playground equipment: get in touch today to find out how we can restore the fun into your playground.