‘Evidence of a long-term and dramatic decline in children’s relationship with the outdoors is ‘overwhelming’ and urgent action is needed to bridge this growing gap before it’s too late’, according to a recent UK Natural Childhood report published by Stephen Moss.
In Ireland, the 2010 Heritage Council’s Wild Child Poll highlighted a decrease in children’s use of wild space,
woods and street play compared to their parents childhood.
In almost a generation outdoor play has practically disappeared from our streets, due to a combination of factors such as heavy traffic on roads, busy scheduled lives, over-reliance on technology for recreation and fears for children’s safety (IPPA 2006).
One of the consequences of this increasingly sedentary, indoor
lifestyle is the effect it is having on children’s health, especially with regard to what has been called the ‘modern epidemic’ of obesity (Moss,2012).
In Ireland, there has been continuous news coverage recently of the alarming growth of obesity in Irish children from the latest results from the ongoing ‘Growing up in Ireland’ study which showed that 26% of nine-year-olds in Ireland are either overweight or obese.
So how can we help to alleviate this problem – let’s go outside and play!
Outdoor play is a simple solution to overcoming the increase in nature-deficit disorder coined by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods (2005), by encouraging children to go outside and spend time in their natural environment, while also tackling the growing problem of child obesity.
Play and the outdoors fit very well together as the outdoors has been our playground and classroom for hundreds of thousands of years, and playing in the outdoors has been the way through which we’ve learned .Science has shown us how our ability to play has given us the chance to explore and manipulate our environment, and to develop as a species (IPPA 2006)
Outdoor play is one of the best learning environments for young children, providing exploration and discovery of one’s self, of others, and of the environment on a grand scale. Children learn through play, movement, communication, and sensory experience which the outdoors provides for on a much greater scale than indoors.
Children who play outside are also less likely to get sick, to be stressed or become aggressive, and are more adaptable to life’s unpredictable turns (Louv,2005)
Early Childhood Ireland will also be publishing a fantastic Outdoor Play Publication based on the ‘Garden of Possibilities ‘ that we installed in Bloom 2010, with links to Aistear and Siolta, so keep an eye on our website!