States and school districts across India are putting plans for reopening their doors when it is proven to be safe. We can expect social distancing between teachers and students. To reduce movement, some plans may require kids to stay at their desks the entire day and have lunch breaks there as well. Even outdoor play could be restricted.
For now, nothing is certain and things will be clearer as we make our way through 2020. However, if children are forced to sit in their desks all day without any opportunity for outdoor play, there could be serious health-related consequences in the long run.
As kids slowly reenter schools, parents and school authorities need to understand this lesson: Time, space, and outdoor play are vital to kids’ health. In fact, they are more likely to need playtime more than ever before. According to research, children’s emotional and physical health could suffer in this lockdown period. It also seems that this issue could persist in some cases and could be long term.
By overly restricting a child’s ability to move and play, they could experience issues such as decreased attention, problems regulating emotions, heightened sensory issues, and difficulty in learning. Now imagine a kid going into an even stricter environment that permits only minimal social interaction, movement, and play. Would it be healthy for kids?
It is, therefore, vital for policymakers and ministers to ensure that kids are provided with substantial, and if possible access to superior-quality play opportunities. This means a sense of security, healthy social interactions, and authentic play experiences. Children need a safe refuge that can reignite the excitement of play and take away the fears of the world.
Let us look at how outdoor experiences are beneficial to kids.
- When children spend time playing outdoors, they naturally spread out and start forming small groups to play. This is when they feel completely free and happy. By not intervening and putting any restrictions, children are more likely to be stress-free and less anxious.
- Outdoor play is incredibly therapeutic for kids. When they step outdoors, it is naturally pleasing and helps organize and regulate their senses. It also serves to advance and challenge skills like decision-making and problem-solving. Such skills are difficult to replicate in a classroom.
- Playing outside in the sunshine can provide a healthy dose of vitamin D, which is essential for strengthening bones and boosting immunity, something that is a priority in 2020.
- Outdoor play is one of the most meaningful and exciting ways for kids to learn and grow. For instance, when children play with playground equipment, they are often engaged in imaginative play. They are more likely to view the play equipment as a fort, ship, or a castle. This boosts their creative thinking and cognitive skills.
There is no doubt that planning a safe school reopening plan during a pandemic is difficult. However, we must not neglect the benefits of outdoor activities for kids. Studies are also stating that outdoor activities have a lower risk than those conducted indoors. Conducting classes outside where there is plenty of space and fresh air could be a creative solution to provide meaningful learning experiences for kids.