The sun is with us in the UK and my daughter told me – as we ate our evening meal in the garden – that when the weather is good, schoolchildren should be allowed to have time off to spend more time outdoors. Wishful thinking on her part but not that far from the opinion of a growing number of experts. Education and health experts believe that more school lessons should take place outdoors because it would be good for their physical and mental health as well as adding in growing up processes such as socialising and befriending.
Say no to classrooms and yes to the outdoors
This week, Professor Peter Higgins, of Edinburgh University, called for schoolchildren, who are “stuck in classrooms”, to go outdoors at school at least once a week. He reckons that education chiefs overlook the benefits of outdoor education to children’s health and wellbeing. He’s even calling for outdoors lessons to become part of schools inspections. And he blasted governments who he believes show a “lack of a consistent understanding of outdoor learning and its benefits”. Professor Higgins is reported as saying: “The outdoor opportunities for kids have to be frequent, regular and progressive. Questions need to be asked if children are not going outdoors at least weekly, particularly in nursery and primary schools.” And Keir Bloomer, a key figure in the creation of the Scottish school’s new Curriculum for Excellence, adds weight to the argument saying that schools should harness the benefits of Scotland’s outdoors and move the classroom into fields and forests.
Go outdoors at home, too
The National Trust have also shown their backing for children to spend more time outdoors. They have previously accused parents of mollycoddling their kids and not encouraging them enough to spend time amid nature. A 2012 report by the charity group said children were leading “sedentary and sheltered” lives over health and safety fears, preferring to play video games inside than venture outdoors. In another Scottish city, Glasgow, research brought out last year showed the many benefits of spending more time amid greenery and natural surroundings. The university study found that being outdoors for short periods a few times a week can cut a person’s chances of being depressed by up to 50 per cent. Walking and cycling, in places such as parks, were said to be great ways to enjoy the outdoors and gain the mental benefits of being amid nature.
10 great ways to boost your time outdoors
If you'd like to spend more time outdoors but you're short on ideas why not try a few from this list? All these ideas are easy to do and many are cheap. So there’s no excuse for making the most of the warmer weather.
Two wheels: Go cycling with all the family on one of the many miles of bike-friendly Sustrans routes.
Run & catch: Teach the kids to play frisbee and then teach the family to play frisbee games
Hop to it: Draw out a hopscotch grid with chalk and show the kids how to play this playground games.
Skip to it: Try long-rope skipping like we all did as kids in the 50s, 60s and 70s
Set the pace: A good family challenge to walk five to 10 miles every week (this could be walking to the shops, over to a friend’s house or out with the dog). The winner gets a prize every weekend.
Go bag some hills: Walk to the summit of as many hills as you can identify on the local map and tick them off in a list.
Paddle on: Hire a canoe or kayak at a local lake, loch or river and enjoy some water-based fun.
Go with the wind: Learn to sail dinghy boats during a family sailing session.
Wave hello: Try body boarding. All you need are family friendly waves, a shortie wetsuit and a simple boarding board for wave riding fun.
Ball games: Take advantage of free tennis at Tennis For Free locations
Tell us your plans for more outdoor time with the family this summer. Check out our family cycling holidays inspiration page.
*This post was udated with fresh information on 03/03/2020