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adventurous play

Adventurous play

By environment, Exercise, Forest School, Green, Holiday camps, Mental health, Nature, Playing, Relationships, Wellbeing
by Dr John Allan
Head of Education at Inspiring Learning, Camp Beaumont

Adventurous play helps children adapt to the challenges of today and to face up to the demands of tomorrow

Learning new skills is fundamental to healthy, human development. Skills come in many forms – from physical movement to reading, writing and listening. Although we all recognise the power of acquiring knowledge, cultivating a child’s sense of purpose and passion must be equal to the importance we place upon their retention of information.

Nurturing an optimum blend of physical, social, cognitive and emotional literacy is most important in childhood. This is where brain growth is most prolific, and a toolkit of skill sets, such as self-awareness, creativity, trust and empathy can be fostered to help children to adapt to the challenges of today and to face up to the demands of tomorrow. We know that youngsters who score high on a combination of psychosocial skills at an early age report better adult outcomes in education, employment, and mental health.

The unpredictable and dynamic nature of adventure-based play makes it an ideal process for the cultivation of skills children require to thrive in an ever-changing world. Outdoor play combines the revitalising, mood-enhancing impact of nature with the adventurous uncertainty of youngsters interacting with each other in non-uniform playful settings without rules and restrictions. Here, children can enjoy exploring their emerging physical capabilities, take turns, co-operate and socialise; finding solutions to new problems in novel ways rather than just sticking to the tried and tested.

Adventure Education is about empowering children to take control of their own learning. This involves educators and parents being responsible without being over-protective so that youngsters are never allowed to wobble, trip, stumble or fall and as a result, miss out on the experience to know what it like to get back up again. Activities which offer some negative emotion, such as feeling unstable in the moment, counterbalanced by positive emotions such as joy, pride and attentiveness underpins a ‘steeling effect’. This helps to inoculate young people to handle more significant risks in the future.

This authentic, experiential approach of ‘learning by doing’ is the foremost guiding principle for facilitating adventurous play. This can take place in school grounds or within an out-of-school adventure camp setting, where a particular focus on specific skill sets can be achieved.

Constructing opportunities for children to be willing to take a path less travelled will make them resilient. Resilience is the learned ability of individuals to ‘bounce-back’ from adversity and ‘bounce-beyond’ their original position to face future testing circumstances with greater capacity. Resilience is recognised in school-based education as an effective policy for developing learners’ wellbeing and academic success.

Having the capacity to share positive resilient experiences with others also suggests resilience may be catching and may be a first step in helping it grow in others.

At a time where children have faced unprecedented upheaval and threats to their wellbeing, it has never been more important to create daily opportunities for them to build their resilience. But how is resilience built through adventurous play which can positively impact other avenues of learning? The following ten tips, which collectively spell the word resilience, outline out-of-school camp practices which help build the adaptive capabilities of learners.

R – Rebound and re-invent
A child’s setback in camp can be framed as a lesson to learn and not a failure. This signifies that achievement comes because of stretching oneself by applying continued effort. This allows young people to self-correct and adjust their responses to produce gains from losses. As a result, learners will attribute their learning to themselves, and take pride in their achievements.

E – Energise
Playful experiences without obvious outcomes help to create a resilient ‘growth mindset’, where a fixed, perspective of ‘can’t do’ is replaced by flexible, task-focused ‘can-do’ persistence. This process is strengthened by camp facilitators stressing the importance of children taking small risks in new situations and not predicting negative outcomes.

S – Share
Adventure education often generates group situations that depend on social integration and collective responsibility. Such mutual reliance in testing circumstances necessitate that children balance their own needs with that of their groups.

I – Inquisitiveness
A combination of unfamiliar camp environments with unknown outcomes, provides an ideal breeding ground for children to set their imagination free and develop the fundamental skills of questioning how, what, who, when and why. This search for understanding may be further enhanced with less reliance on mobile technology which has been associated with youngsters vocalising and sharing less, limiting their questioning and failing to recognise the real-life implications of decision-making.

L – Life-enhancing
First-hand experiences combined with reflective practice consolidate children’s learning within and beyond camps. To promote lasting impact, camps should deliver activities with ‘transfer in mind’. Varied events which are responsive to enquiring minds and trigger emotions, such as laughter, incredulity and even mild apprehension, generate learning that can be recalled upon later using diaries, or creative writing.

I – Inclusion
Playful activities which provoke unwanted risk for one child may be seen as an opportunity for growth in another. Supporting learners to make personalised judgements of risk-taking based upon their perception of their abilities enables the growth of self-directed behaviour.

E – Environment
Just five minutes of exercise undertaken in an urban green space may be sufficient to boost a child’s physical and mental wellbeing. Therefore, a combination of active and restorative play in nature (like mindfulness exercises or forest bathing) meet health and wellbeing needs not able to be provided by similar activities (like traditional sports) and become even more powerful when deliberately designed for such purposes.

N – Natural
The authenticity of adventure-based play offers realistic consequences for success and failure. Allowing learners to own their responses to unfolding circumstances, helps them to see the bigger picture, take stock of facts and acknowledge others’ perspectives in becoming prepared for whatever challenges come along.

C – Control
Giving children choices and the autonomy to play and explore in a natural space is a primary mechanism through which they become freely acquainted with their environment, develop natural mapping skills and learn how to distinguish between themselves and others.

E – Emotional intelligence
The ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of others is a distinct feature of resilience learned through direct exposure to adventurous camp-based learning.

With over 44 years’ experience caring for children, Camp Beaumont run award-winning day camps in over 50 locations across London and the South-East for children aged between 3 and 14 years old. Book our multi-activity day programmes to ensure your child learns new skills, makes new friends and enjoys their most exciting school holiday yet.

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The importance of children being active and socialising throughout the school holidays

By environment, family, fun for children, Holiday camps, Playing, Sport
by Debbie Webb,
Founder of Activ8 For Kids

The school holidays can be a time for fun and relaxation, but it’s also important to keep children engaged and active during this time. School holidays are always an exciting time for children, but it can be a challenging time for parents who still need to work. This is where holiday clubs often come in, providing children with a safe, fun environment. There are a wide range of holiday clubs available depending on the interests of the children, but with the rising cost of living, parents may wonder whether the cost of the holiday clubs are worth it and whether trying to entertain them at home is a better option. So what do we want our children to be doing during the school holidays, what will help them to develop and grow as individuals and help them later in life?

As much as your child may push against routines, children actually thrive in a routine. It gives them a sense of purpose, clear expectations and a structure to their day. Routines can help their self-esteem and ensure they feel less anxious and more comfortable. Lie in’s, chilled time in front of the TV, playing computer games and having days out are all great and bring a range of benefits, but it is also important to build in time to be active and have opportunities to socialise with others regularly.

Current recommendations from the government are for children to take part in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day. This means their heart rate should increase, they should be out of breath and feel hot after the activity. Physical activity is essential for maintaining good health, strengthening muscles and bones, enhancing motor skills and can prevent obesity and related health problems. Ensuring your child is active every day and recognises the benefits it brings (both physically and mentally), can cultivate a lifelong habit of exercise and a healthy lifestyle. As well as keeping them healthy, being active brings so many more benefits:
• Allows children to burn off excess energy; remember school is very tiring and during the holidays they need alternative ways to channel that energy.
• Boosts confidence and promotes social skills.
• Develops and improves their fundamental movement skills of balance, co-ordination and agility.
• Improves mental wellbeing and makes them feel good about themselves. Exercise can improve their mood, enable them to experience a sense of accomplishment and can also stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.
• Contributes to better sleep.
• Increases self-esteem and helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
• Physical activity stimulates brain function and enhances cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that active children perform better academically and have improved attention spans. During school holidays, engaging in physical activities like sports, outdoor games or even activities that involve problem solving and critical thinking can contribute to their cognitive development.
• Engaging in different activities and exploring new places fosters creativity, stimulates imagination and curiosity and problem solving skills.

Children who get to be active everyday alongside other children will also benefit in the following ways:
• Develop new skills.
• Develop team work and leadership skills.
• Make new friends.
• Develop independence.
• Develop their social interaction skills.
• Learn how to transfer skills across activities.

Socialising with others during school holidays is crucial for children’s social development. It provides opportunities for them to practice communication, co-operation, teamwork and conflict resolution. Participating in group activities and interacting with others helps children build friendships, develop empathy and understand diverse perspectives.

Overall, children being active and socialising during school holidays is essential for their physical health, mental wellbeing, cognitive development, social skills and creativity. Parents, carers and communities should provide opportunities and support for children to engage in a variety of activities that promote physical activity.

Debbie Webb is a qualified teacher and sports coach. She runs Activ8 For Kids and has developed programmes of activity for the different ages and stages between two and sixteen years old based on the fundamental movement skills. Visit for more information.

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FREE holiday clubs for eligible children: What is HAF and how can it help me?

By Childcare and Nannying, Education, environment, family, Finance, Holiday camps

Since 2021 the government has funded a programme called HAF (Holiday, Activities and Food programme) across all areas of the country.

Research has shown that the school holidays can be pressure points for some families. For some children this can lead to a holiday experience gap, with some children being:
• Less likely to access organised holiday activities.
• More likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health.
• More likely to experience social isolation.

In response to this research there are now a large number of holiday club providers who are offering HAF places to eligible children (from reception to year 11).

The aims of the programme are to ensure children:
• Eat healthily over the school holidays.
• Are active during the school holidays.
• Take part in engaging and enriching activities which support the development of resilience, character and wellbeing.
• Be safe and not to be socially isolated.
• Have a greater knowledge of health and nutrition.

Currently a very low percentage of those eligible are actually using their free places. It is really important to raise the profile of this programme across all areas to ensure it reaches as many children and families as possible. The benefits and opportunities this programme offers are huge, however many families are put off because they do not realise they are eligible or because they don’t understand what it means.

For any parent or carer who receives any financial support for their children it is worth exploring this further. There are a wide range of clubs that offer HAF spaces and we need to make sure these places are filled to ensure the continued funding of the programme. Whenever you see HAF activities being advertised please help spread the word and let’s get this great programme out to as many families as possible.

For further information please visit