Blog post -
The importance of active play within schools and urban spaces
London Urban Sport Group member Marco Boi, Founder and CEO of Playinnovation, discusses why active play within schools and urban spaces is so important for children’s development and integrating outdoor learning.
As the new school year begins, thousands of children will be returning to the classroom this September.
During this transition it is as important as ever to understand the opportunities provided by outdoor active play within local accessible playgrounds, whether in school or outside.
Many children will have access to a local playground and whilst these places can get a bad reputation, they should be celebrated as places which promote and encourage inclusivity, where every child – regardless of friendship groups, ages, abilities, or confidence – can enjoy being active.
Active play can also be a vital and invaluable teaching tool. Children can learn and develop critical skills that can provide strong foundations for their future including:
Physical - active play is the perfect tool to help children with co-ordination, balance and motor skills and helps build stamina and overall health and fitness.
Social - playing with others will help children to collaborate, work as a team, manage and negotiate different team dynamics.
Emotional - children will learn how to manage and cope with new (and existing) sets of emotions. They might have to be empathic, supportive, they might need to learn how to control anger or cope with disappointment - it’s an emotional rollercoaster but a useful one nonetheless.
Creativity - children’s imaginations are phenomenal, they create and make their own rules as well as new and wonderfully imaginative ways to play our games.
Cognitive - children will learn how to reason, remember, think, learn, play and perform.
Communication - active play encourages children to communicate with peers and friends and they can do this in many ways through speech, signals or actions.
It’s important also to acknowledge the huge impact schools have in our children’s development and participation in active play.
PE lessons and play time can be the most active part of their day; offering the chance to have fun, build friendships, follow their interests and relax away from lessons, which is good for their mental health and wellbeing.
Children let off steam during break times but, for me, there’s so much more to playgrounds than you might think.
They should be seen as outdoor classrooms and teaching areas which enable teachers to continue lessons and bring what is taught in the classroom to life in a more active and energetic way.
Experts say that, typically, a child can concentrate well for three to five minutes for every year they’ve been alive – meaning a five-year-old should be able to manage 15-25 minutes at a time.
But heading outside to the playground allows them to switch up the learning environment to make subjects more engaging and enjoyable for primary-aged pupils.
What’s more, children’s concentration improves while learning outdoors.
When absorbed in outdoor activities, pupils tend to be much more focused, avoiding the common classroom distractions. Therefore, by integrating outdoor learning with indoor learning, teachers can achieve even better outcomes for pupils; something for headteachers to encourage.
One example is taking maths outdoors. Why not play a target-based game in the playground, where children get to aim at objects and calculate their scores? It’s a great way to combine practical and intellectual skills to create a fun and engaging learning experience.
Teachers also benefit from taking education outdoors. It not only helps them to stay fresh and enthusiastic about what they’re teaching but it also offers them the opportunity to innovate and push boundaries.
The benefits of active play are countless.
The London Urban Sport Group shares knowledge and provides a collective voice for physical activity and sport within the urban environment, encouraging others to back this approach. Find out more here. If your organisation interested in joining the London Urban Sport Group, get in touch.