How outdoor play supports good mental health in children

How outdoor play supports good mental health in children
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Spending time in natural environments is good for us all.
It encourages us to be more sociable, our brains start to take in all the sights, sounds and smells from the environment and this engagement makes us more relaxed.
With fewer feelings of stress and anxiety, being outdoors makes us feel happier and gives us energy.
There’s also evidence that being exposed to sunlight while outdoors helps to normalise sleep schedules and, often, heading into nature encourages us to be more physically active.
Children’s Mental Health Week (February 6-12) aims to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing among young people as well as adults. 
This year the theme is Let’s Connect, exploring the healthy connections children can make to support their mental health.

A place to connect

Having safe places to go and enjoy spending time having fun and engaging in activities was among the priorities highlighted by young people in wellbeing focus groups organised by the Office of National Statistics.
Well-designed playgrounds are ideal spaces for children and visitors to learn and play and make new connections.
This can be through including playground equipment for different types of play, so every visitor can be included in games.
Some children respond better to sensory activities while others may enjoy imaginative play – making connections with others who share the same interests is rewarding and helps young people to overcome feelings of isolation or loneliness.
The provision of quiet zones or playground furniture is another great way to get children socialising and making friends.
Whether at a school, in the community, at a visitor attraction or holiday park, playgrounds support the mental health of users.
Choosing an API registered play provider, like Hand Made Places, is also a must when it comes to finding a partner to lead a playground project and ensure safety standards.
Membership of the trade body is a sign that the company is trustworthy, professional and operates to the highest standards.

Connecting through play

A study led by the University of Exeter suggests that communities might be able to help protect children’s mental health by ensuring they have plentiful opportunities for adventurous play.
It tested the theory that adventurous play, involving activities like climbing and jumping, helps to build resilience in children which in turn helps to prevent mental health problems.
Researchers found that children who spend more time playing outside had fewer problems characterised as anxiety and depression.
Experiencing challenge and risk through adventurous play made a positive contribution to wellbeing.
From Trim Trails to Climbing Frames, Play Towers to Traditional Play like swings and slides, the right playground equipment can all add to the exhilaration of free play.
Creating challenging experiences in a safe environment also helps to develop skills such as problem solving, communication and spatial awareness.

Prioritising play

Using play can be a powerful way of building resilience and coping mechanisms in young people.
It helps to meet social needs, strengthens communities and contributes to physical health as well as mental wellbeing.
Developing playgrounds where children are free to play and express themselves combined with being outdoors can all influence children’s ability to cope with stress.
Contact our team at Hand Made Places to discuss your playground project and how our advisers can apply their expertise and knowledge to design a play environment beneficial to mental health.