Why Leicestershire children are being urged to play outside this winter

Temperatures are dropping and the evenings are getting darker but families across Leicestershire are being encouraged to get their children to play outdoors this winter to improve physical and mental health.

Over the last year, 96 children from primary schools across Leicester have been taking part in the Wild Forest School project run by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and both teachers and parents have reported seeing a vast improvement in the children’s mental wellbeing and self-esteem.

Over the last year, 96 children from primary schools across Leicester have been taking part in the Wild Forest School project run by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and both teachers and parents have reported seeing a vast improvement in the children’s mental wellbeing and self-esteem.

Grainne Purkiss, Teaching and Learning Coach at Braunstone Community Primary School says: “We have all enjoyed Forest School and the difference it has made to the children involved. It has been a tremendous opportunity to see the "quiet" changes that take place within the selected children over the last few weeks. When they came back to school with their strung bows and alder necklaces, I nearly cried.”

In a new video released by the Trust today, children have explained, in their own words, how spending time outside has improved their confidence.

Martha Rose, Educational Officer at Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust says: “The feedback from the Wild Forest School sessions is the latest in an increasing body of evidence that shows how spending just five minutes outside can improve children’s mental development. However, studies show that colder weather is one of the biggest barriers to outdoor learning, which is why we’re giving families some inspiration for outdoor activities over the winter months.”

Top Tips:

1. Stargazing - Stargazing can be done from the comfort of your back garden and it’s a great way to get your kids outdoors and learning. If you’re not already a budding astronomer, there are plenty of family guides out there that will talk you through the constellations you can spot with the kids and how to spot the stars from the planets.

2. Leaf collecting – Autumn and winter produce a stunning array of natural colours, so it’s a great time to get arty with the natural resources on your doorstep, for example by making a leaf lantern or leaf suncatcher.

3. Stick people – Create a whole family of stick people to play with by binding together (using a pipe cleaner or masking tape) two shapes of stick: a straight one and one with a fork (or "Y" shape at the end) for the legs.

4. Bird feeders – As food becomes more scarce, birds need a little helping hand. Make your own feeder by covering a pine cone with a base of either melted suet/lard or UNsalted peanut butter mixed with seed and raisins.

5. Seed and nut hunt – Search for and identify the different seeds and nuts you can find either on the ground or hanging in the trees in your local park. If they have been nibbled, find out what animal made the marks.

To download the video, please visit: www.wildforestschool.org.uk

For more information on these outdoor activities, please visit: www.wildforestschool.org.uk/resources and www.wildlifewatch.org.uk/activity-sheets