Best Practice

Ideas for using outdoor play to improve mental health and wellbeing

Play is powerful and builds cognitive, physical, and social and emotional skills. But are we giving children enough opportunities to play outdoors in our schools? Shahana Knight advises
Image: Adobe Stock

Children are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing now more than ever before, with NHS figures suggesting that 1 in 5 children aged 8 to 16 have a probable mental health condition, including 16% of 8, 9 and 10-year-olds (Newlove-Delgado et al, 2023).

In our schools, we are seeing a rise in stress levels, anxiety, aggression, and challenging behaviour and these are becoming constant barriers to learning for some children.

When I look at why this might be, I can see two major influencing factors. The first is adverse experiences outside of school, which can be anything from trauma and abuse to living in a low-income family (and we all know the cost of living is pushing more families to the edge).

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