The importance of school playtime for child mental health

Charlotte Miller

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According to The Children’s Society, the likelihood of young people having mental health problems has doubled in the last three years.

In their 2022 Good Childhood Report, they found that children’s happiness continues to decline, and now, five children in a class of thirty are likely to have a mental health problem – with two of the most prominent being anxiety and depression.

We all know how much being outside can benefit our mental health.

Of course, it’s not a cure, but it’s still important to encourage our children to get some fresh air to boost their mood, reduce any feelings of stress or anger, and help them feel more relaxed.

School playtimes are just one opportunity for them to do just that, and it has more benefits for pupils than you might think.

It reduces stress levels

Dancing. Running around. Kicking a ball about. These are all great ways for children to leave the stresses of the classroom behind. And research shows that spending just 20-30 minutes outside can reduce cortisol levels in the body – the hormone responsible for evoking feelings of stress.

When children are having fun and laughing with friends, their bodies release endorphins to promote feelings of pleasure, and breaking up lesson times protects children from the negative impacts of prolonged stress exposure.

It encourages exercise

For many children, being outside surrounded by nature is a huge motivator for physical activity.

Not only does this help develop muscle, strength and a healthy heart, but it also releases endorphins, which are, again, huge mood boosters.

Outdoor exercise leaves children feeling rejuvenated – both physically and mentally – and almost immediately erases feelings of worry and anxiety.

It facilitates positive sleeping patterns

Primary school children between ages 6-13 need, at least, 9 hours of sleep every night.

Sleep helps maintain cognitive skills, like attention, learning and memory. Not getting enough sleep can make the everyday stresses of the classroom much worse and massively impact the time children spend in the classroom.

Typically, our body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) follows the sun – making us feel awake during the daytime and sleepy at night, also allowing us to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of our sleep. And this is why outdoor playtimes are so detrimental to children.

It aids vitamin D production

Lack of vitamin D has long been associated with low mood and anxiety, and just one way to boost vitamin D production in the body is by spending time outside in the sunshine.

Not only will this help boost student’s moods, but it’ll also encourage healthy bones and immune systems. And, as the saying goes – a healthy body is a healthy mind.

Make outdoor playtimes more exciting with school playground equipment

School playground equipment is just one of the ways you can make your outdoor area more enticing for children.

At Setter Play, there’s a range of different play units that you can incorporate into your playground that your pupils are sure to love – no matter how old they are.

To find out more about their collection, or how school playground equipment can benefit your students get in touch with their experts today!