Spending time outdoors could be the key to a more prosperous and successful life, according to a leading voice in the UK’s natural heritage arena. The benefits for youngsters who play or enjoy activities outdoors are not just focused on physical health and well-being but also on the social and emotional advantages of improved self-esteem and self-confidence.
Speaking at a Youth Spaces conference in Edinburgh recently, Andrew Thin, the chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) underlined the “social and employment advantages for children who spend more time enjoying outdoors activities”.
He said: “Social advantage is a function of far more than income or wealth. It is a function of self-esteem, self-confidence, interpersonal competence, open mindedness, health and much more. And in all of these determining factors, income can help, but it is certainly not a prerequisite.”
Andrew went on to talk about the benefits that access to the great outdoors can bring. He said: “One of the things we know is that access to the outdoors contributes to social advantage. Self-esteem and self-confidence are key determinants of employability. These can be gained by climbing a hill, or even a tree, canoeing across a loch or biking through a glen.
“In addition, interpersonal skills are naturally enhanced when doing things with other people in the outdoors.”
Andrew highlighted the sense of stability that the outdoors can provide through the relationships that people have with outdoors places, such as a favourite campsite or fishing spot by the canal. He said: “These lifelong relationships are formed from a very young age.”
Go outdoors for better job prospects
Employability experts agree that introducing youngsters to fun outdoors could reap many future benefits for the UK. Jenny Adams, Development Manager, Skills and Employability for The Conservation Volunteers in Scotland, said: "It is increasingly common these days to hear about young people who are disconnected from nature. Many of us will have heard the phrase “nature deficiency disorder” where children and young people are more likely to be plugged in to the electronic world and become prone to inactivity.
“Yet access to nature can have a significant impact on the lives of marginalised young people, offering them the freedom, equilibrium and expertise that they have been denied in formal education.”
The Conservation already works with young people to connect them to outdoor spaces through a host of different activities, including practical conservation, food growing, horticulture and community engagement.
How to get kids involved in the great outdoors
There a many groups and societies across the UK that aim to bring children closer to nature and encourage more outdoors experiences. Here we highlight a few:
The Woodlands Trust has a children’s programme of events and ideas for things to do. The autumn nature detectives scheme is a great place to start.
Check out Bat Kids at the Bat Conservation Trust. You can find out more about bats and where to see them. There is also a good resource for teachers and youth leaders so you can pass on the information to youngsters.
There is a children’s group as part of the UK Wolf Conservation Group.
Children and families can get involved with the conservation work of the Canal and River Trust.
The Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens supports and promotes community-managed farms and gardens across the UK. There are plenty of
opportunities for children and parents to become involved.
Also have a look at the Youth pages on the Friends of the Earth website for lots of great ideas for making a difference to the environment. The more you learn the more likely it is that you will want to preserve our great outdoors environment.