Work has begun on our KIDS THRIVE OUTSIDE initiative, an online forest school club inspiring parents to regularly ramble in Nature with their children, focusing on nature crafts – game play – nature literacy and numeracy challenges – nature STEM – nature snacks (raw recipes / camp fire cooks) and nature Zen mindfulness.

Our children are in crisis.

In the UK, 1 in 4 children in Reception class are overweight or obese. That figure raises to 1 in 3 by the start of secondary school. 90% of 2-4 year olds are currently not meeting the recommended daily exercise levels.

Currently 75% of UK children spend less time outdoors a day than prison inmates.

Babies and young children need to move, in order to develop and learn. Only 1 in 12 children (US study) match the norms of physical development compared to children in the 1980s. Paediatric physical therapists are calling for an urgent directive to encourage children to be allowed daily free play in outdoor spaces to ensure normal development, 5 hours daily to achieve this, from the age of one.

The drastic rise in sensory integration disorders including ADHD and Autism has coincided with the dramatic decrease in time young children are being given the opportunity to play outside, a drop of 50% in just one generation. Nature provides calming, therapeutic 360 degree sensory input, helping the brain to build the connections to ensure sensory integration and ample opportunity to experience not only the 5 regular senses but develop the 2 additional senses, the vestibular sense (movement and balance) and Proprioception sense (body awareness in space). Increasingly indoor, sedentary lifestyles of young children is harming the development of these 7 senses, leaving children struggling to focus at school.

1 in 4 girls and 10% of boys by the age of 14 in the UK experience mental health issues. Rates of self harm, anxiety and depression, suicidal thoughts in children have never been higher. Multiple studies have shown a link between access to green spaces; fields, forests, parks and gardens and a reduced risk of mental health problems, reduced stress, improved mood, increased physical activity and better physical health with increased life satisfaction. “Nature play is superior at engendering a sense of self and a sense of place, allowing children to recognise both their independence and interdependence. Play in outdoor settings also exceeds indoor alternatives in fostering cognitive, emotional and moral development.” How to Raise A Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson.

Natural Light is key for healthy development. The light outdoors is 100 times brighter than inside (on a cloudy day!) Natural light triggers the body to produce Serotonin, which aids neuron communication, essential for a well working brain. Lack of serotonin is linked to depression. Natural light regulates the sleep – wake body cycle ensuring better quality of sleep. Natural light also aids the digestive and immune systems.

The early childhood years, birth to 5, are the most critical point in neurological development. Infants and toddlers develop 700 neural connections every second. 85% of a human’s brain is formed by the time children are 4 years old. The brain of a three year old is twice as active as an adult’s brain. Experience builds brain connections. No environment grows the brain as effectively as the question provoking natural world.

PLAY BASED curriculum has been proven to be the most effective learning method for young children. Scientists have determined that is takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it is done with play, in which case it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions (Dr Karyn Purvis) Natural environments encourage play and exploration due to ever changing, expansive settings, rich in natural loose parts play, proven to increase children’s creativity and cognitive development. Research shows that children who develop focus and self control early in life, have better academic achievement in the long run. These skills are learned effectively in Game Play.

Studies in Language and Communication development show that children in outdoor environments use a greater number of nouns, verbs, adjectives, exclamation and more varied vocabulary. When scientists compared language in different early years settings: indoor classroom, outdoor classroom and natural environment, the children’s use of imaginative language was most prevalent outside.

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