Cotton wool playgrounds

When I was a child, playing outside in the street, getting lost in the woods, cycling for miles with friends, were all part of growing up.  Nowadays, as has been widely reported, cotton wool is our children’s most likely playground.

It’s a sad state of affairs but it is a reality and we now have a compelling duty to adapt our environments, homes and schools, to compensate for the loss of this freedom.  If we don’t, we are surely leading a whole generation of young people into adulthood with limited or no knowledge of the potential thrills on offer in the great outdoors, depriving them of  the opportunity to learn the valuable lessons nature can teach us.

We underestimate the wonders of nature and their importance in a child’s development at our – and their – peril. Here are a few lessons in life inspired by nature. Patience – nature has her own timetable; Wonder – nature can be truly awe-inspiring; Peace – how to be quiet and watchful; Challenge – the challenge of climbing a mountain or navigating through a forest; Collaboration – working together to overcome, build, grow and nurture amazing things; Responsibility – for other living creatures; Overcoming fear – of creepy crawlies, wild animals, heights, depths, discomfort; A sense of adventure – the world at your fingertips; Imagination – anyone who has made cloud pictures knows about this one; and, above all, independence and freedom, which can breed boundless self-esteem and confidence.

On Friday our Madingley Pre-Prep children enjoyed their first experience of a new style of outdoor learning at what will be our very own ‘Forest School’ next year:  The children were very excited and looking forward to the day all week and they weren’t disappointed.   The experience reaffirmed to me how vital outdoor time is for children, particularly at this age, and confirmed the strength of our strategy to offer our Pre-prep pupils the benefits of both city and rural settings.

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