There is an increasing number of primary school children who are dealing with stress and anxiety at school. This is due to a variety of different factors including the pressures of school and the social expectations children face.
Having a positive and interactive outdoor space can help kids relax and enjoy themselves more, making them able to concentrate better in lessons. In this post we’ll discuss how playing outside can reduce stress and anxiety for children of all ages. Check out our previous article on inclusive play equipment if you are looking for ways to create a more diverse playground.
Why Are Children Anxious?
A lot of things can cause children to feel anxious or stressed, particularly at school. Here are a few of the main reasons why a child might have feelings of anxiety:
- Separation – It’s common for younger children to feel worried and scared when separated from parents or carers.
- Phobias – Some kids may develop phobias in early life which make them feel anxious. These could be things like heights, spiders, water, the dark etc.
- Social situations – A lot of children feel shy and anxious in social situations especially if it’s a new environment, such as when they first start school.
- A particular event – Sometimes specific events can trigger anxious feelings for a child. For example, they may have hurt themselves on the playground, been involved in a car accident or something else which has caused them distress.
- A significant change – Something like moving house, parents divorcing or starting a new school could make a child worry and not feel confident.
It’s also important to remember that while stress and anxiety can be brought on by these factors and many more, it can also have no specific cause at all. It may seem difficult to understand, but each person’s mental health is different, and support should be made available to all children. Visit this page from the NHS to find out more about helping children cope with anxiety.
Improving Mental Health with Play
Studies have shown that there are many benefits of active play when it comes to improving mental health. Roughly 1 in 5 children up to the age of 11 will experience some kind of mental health problem, with anxiety and stress being the most common.
Getting fresh air and being active can help to reduce the hormones commonly associated with feeling anxious. By creating an interactive play space with a variety of games, you are giving each child something to focus on and enjoy. This also promotes the release of hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin which make you feel calmer and happier. Check out this post for more information on how active lifestyles can improve health.
Sometimes a loss of control can cause kids to feel worried and unhappy. By taking part in an activity, using equipment or cooperating with others, they can take control and choose how they want to play. This also helps with forming relationships and making friends who can help them feel more relaxed.
Active Playground Ideas
A number of different options are available when creating a play area to help reduce stress and boost pupils’ moods. Here are a few active playground ideas you could consider for your school or nursery:
- Trim Trails and Obstacles – These consist of things like climbing walls, rope bridges, balance beams and monkey bars. Using equipment like this helps develop strength and motor skills, as well as giving a feeling of accomplishment when you get to the end.
- Daily Mile Surface – An extremely popular activity which schools are now incorporating into each day. 15 minutes of walking or running each day helps create a positive attitude and increases concentration in lessons. We can install a variety of Daily Mile surfacing types if you are looking to install one of these facilities.
- Outdoor Gym Equipment – Different pieces of apparatus help develop children’s muscles, and exercise helps with the release of happy endorphins.
- Activity Boards – These can include things like games mounted on the wall and chalkboards where children can write and draw.
- Musical Instruments – A number of musical items could be placed outside on the playground including drums, xylophones, bells and many more. These allow kids to be creative and express themselves through the music they can play.
- Sand and Water Play – Kids can experience different textures and materials as well as building sand castles or channelling water. Loads of sand and water activities can be done on the playground.
All these things can be incorporated into your outdoor space to encourage pupils to be active and take part in different games. This helps focus their minds and reduce feelings of worry or stress.
Encouraging Mindfulness in Schools
Being more mindful can help both children and adults to be aware of their emotions and deal with difficult feelings. Encouraging mindfulness in schools has plenty of benefits as it improves emotional development and even boosts concentration in lessons. Studies also show that this can even reduce instances of bullying on the playground. Find out more on Anti Bullying Week 2019 here.
Mindfulness may be achieved through a range of activities including individual games and playing in groups. Imaginative play is a great way for kids to be creative and work together or alone to make something using their imaginations.
Managing Anxiety through Play
As you can see, there are many ways that playing outside can reduce stress and anxiety in children. Lots of situations can cause worry and negative feelings for primary school pupils. It’s important to support them and give them a positive place to express themselves and release their energy.
Managing anxiety through play can be very effective for all ages and it also helps with developing physical skills. You can choose from a diverse range of equipment and designs to ensure you cater for different pupils.
Feel free to get in touch with us if you are interested in upgrading your play area with new surfacing or equipment and we’d be happy to provide a quote.