The latest stories from Inspiring Scotland and our partner charities.
As the clocks go back and the night draws in, it got me thinking about my childhood, and the unwritten rule that when the streetlights came on, we all knew it was time to go home and play time was over.
Now, as a parent myself, these universal ‘rules’ have changed. The surge in technology means screen time is up and outside time is down. Going outside to play after school isn’t as popular as logging online to talk to pals.
Parents are also increasingly risk averse and uncertain about allowing children to play outdoors with a rise in awareness of the risks of traffic, stranger danger, and anti-social behaviours.
However, the benefits of playing outdoors are invaluable. Research, from Scotland and elsewhere, shows playing increases children’s health and fitness and teaches them the basic physical literacy skills they need throughout their lives. Studies also link playing, and the interaction that comes with it, with the development of social skills and emotional resilience. Children learn to problem-solve and risk-assess through play, and being physically active develops cognitive ability and is linked to academic achievement.
Parents must think back to their own childhoods and the benefits that they yielded from playing outdoors.
What if, like the baby box, every child in Scotland received a head torch for their sixth or seventh birthday? How many more life enhancing adventures would our children have playing outdoors?
The Scottish Government released their child poverty update in April 2023, which found that 18% of children in Scotland are living in poverty. Additionally, 27% of children are living in households with low or very low food insecurity, children who experience poverty are more likely to suffer from poor mental health and physical health, have less opportunities for physical activity, and recreational screentime time over eight hours per day.
This daunting reality is hard to face, however, there are ways to help reduce the effects that the past few years of unrest have had on our children and families.
Hosted by the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, a group of global researchers recognised that play has a central, important and strategic role in how children can move forward following Covid-19.
To some, this may seem too simple to work. For others, like those living in our cities, this might seem inaccessible. Still, the science is in: Getting outside can greatly benefit children and their families physical, social, mental health and well-being.
Play comes perfectly naturally to children – play is physical activity, and builds personal character, cognitive, social and moral development.
Over the past decade, there has been more focus on outdoor play in early learning and childcare, schools, and community settings with the publishing of Scotland’s Coalition for Outdoor Play and Learning position statement.
These examples of policy developments supported by collaborations between the Scottish Government, the play sector and other public bodies demonstrate significant progress. Additionally, in 2022 the Scottish Government increased their investment in Outdoor Community Play which supports charities across Scotland to provide a range of free play sessions outdoors, with an added focus on supporting parents and facilitating family play and supporting children with additional support needs.
As adults we need to create the opportunities and conditions for children to play freely in our streets and green spaces. We need to ensure that Article 31, which embodies the child’s right to play, is upheld. AND we need to role model by getting ourselves up and off the couch, and get outside.
If we believe in a child’s right to play and want to create a better future for all of Scotland’s children, we must continue to ensure more and better outdoor play opportunities are accessible across Scotland, in all places and spaces.
Outdoor Play shouldn’t be seen as something that children only do over the school holidays or for those children that are lucky enough to have access to a play space. All children want to play and as adults all we need to do is let them!
Think back to when you were a child, what did you do after school, at the weekends and over the holiday periods, what did you do before the streetlights came on?
Thrive Outdoors Fund Manager
Find out more about Thrive Outdoors and the fund’s work across Scotland here.
The Thrive Outdoors team has today (Monday 12 February 2024) launched a new website to showcase the work of the fund and share resources with the play and outdoor sector. The new site will be a hub for outdoor play champions, offering support, guidance and resources – a one-stop-shop for practitioners, education professionals and childmindersRead More
We kicked off the new year by hosting the first online conference of its kind in Scotland – Infant Mental Health: Babies in Scotland 2024. This event was in partnership with the Scottish Government and was our biggest event yet with 588 people attending on the day. It was incredible to get that manyRead More
The Scottish Government has recently asked for views on their proposed Care Leavers Payment. As Scotland’s national mentoring programme for children and young people with care experience, our Fund Manager Christine was in a unique position to gather valuable insights from the young people this will affect. Here’s what she found out… In myRead More