Why are we focusing on our outdoor play areas?
It is important that, as a school community, we focus on improving our outside play
Australian children can experience more than 4,000 recess and lunch periods during their primary
schooling, presenting a large period that could be used to influence behaviour, recreational
preferences and habits into secondary schooling and beyond.
Having interesting and appealing outdoor spaces encourages children to get out and explore the
outdoors, which doesn’t just benefit their physical outcomes, but also helps them in the classroom.
Recent research shows that students who use their lunch and recess breaks to get outside and play
are less likely to misbehave or push boundaries. Conversely, boring play equipment can cause
children to become reckless to the point of injuring themselves or others.
Southern Cross University physical education and health expert Dr Brendon Hyndman’s research
also found that secondary students have voiced a desire for more challenging physical experiences.
In a book released to coincide with National Health and Physical Education Day 2017,
Contemporary School Playground Strategies for Healthy Students, Dr Hyndman suggests that
strategies as simple as making available weather-appropriate uniforms, and providing inexpensive
mobile equipment such as hay bales and blocks, could motivate students to venture into their
school playgrounds, and reap the resulting health benefits.
However, Dr Hyndman said, students should be consulted about the features to be included in their
playgrounds so the areas are developed in the best way to improve their health, wellbeing and
outdoor learning.
Girls, in particular, enjoy creative, imaginative and social play opportunities that can’t be fulfilled in
tired, old-fashioned facilities. Innovative suggestions such as dog walking or dance programs give
them opportunities to exercise and socialise, says Dr Hyndman.
Thinking of opportunities in outdoor spaces for learning and engagement is the key, rather than
considering playgrounds as a venue for letting off steam.
If you are interested in learning more, see Dr Brendon Hyndman (ed.), Contemporary School
Playground Strategies for Healthy Students, Springer Nature Singapore, 2017 (DOI 10.1007/978-
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