To mark Child Mental Health week this February, we champion the importance of getting yourself, and your families outdoors, to enjoy the benefits of nature on our well-being, including some simple tips on building active family lives.
It’s no secret that a lot of our kids’ generation are experiencing mental health issues. NHS data suggests this is affecting as many as 18% of all children in 2022. That’s just about 1 in every 5 school children. How have we got here? There isn’t any single and simple reason. Technology, social media, exams pressure and identity are all playing a role. At the same time, we’re losing the good things that provide balance in their lives, especially getting active and getting outdoors.
We’re getting a lot smarter about the role exercise plays in influencing our well-being. So much so, some health authorities around the UK are prescribing outdoor activity to combat depression and anxiety. For children, developing both physically and emotionally, the benefits are even greater.
Outdoor activity helps children regulate their moods and burn off feelings of stress and anger. Their social skills multiply through team-play and cooperation. Learning improves through increased alertness and energy levels. Self-esteem grows, especially amongst those who struggle academically. And activity raises levels of endorphins – hormones that relieve pain and stress of exercise – improving their overall mood. In short, it’s kryptonite for developing kids and vital for helping them improve well-being into adolescence and beyond.
Active families make active lives
As public health bodies and government increase the investment in improving access to outdoor activity, we’re seeing lots of interesting ideas to help change lives. One innovative approach, coming out of the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) in the US, is recognising that helping families become active families is key to creating a generation of active kids. Their recommendations include:
01 Walk the walk
Active kids have active role models. This doesn’t mean you have do the same activities you want your kids to follow, but building activity in your own routine, is going to motivate them to follow the same path.
02 Make it a family affair
Building activity as a routine makes active families. Around Linmere, we’re blessed with some fantastic trails and destinations for outdoor walking and connecting with nature. We have the Linmere Walking Loops from Linmere park here and a some great outdoor spaces in Bedfordshire, some of which are covered in our recent half-term guide here.
03 Consider rewards
When we’re up against TikTok, Meta and online gaming, we’re going to need big hooks to get kids and teenagers to change their routine. Rewards might feel cheating, but they’ll get kids to make the change. Once change happens, routines follow.
04 Start slow
We’re all guilty of this. We buy our first set of golf clubs and wonder why we’re not Rory McIlroy in 6 months. Start small. Swap car journeys to going on foot. Change small routines. 10 minutes of something, is better than an hour of nothing.
05 Don’t chase perfection
Let your kids find their own way there. We’re not out to break records, we’re just setting new routines.
Placemakers are stepping up
Places, like Linmere, are building neighbourhoods to help restore the relationship between our children’s generation and their outdoor spaces. The well-being of our residents is key to the success of Linmere as a community. As Linmere grows over the coming years, our younger residents will enjoy a wide choice of facilities for sport and adventure. Even now, Linmere park is providing plenty of spaces for adventurous play, including our fantastic all-weather pump track. Good placemakers don’t just make places, they build balanced and active lives.
Linmere is designed to be a place for communities that embraces the natural environment, and where all generations can enjoy a great quality of life. This exciting new collection of leafy and walkable neighbourhoods, situated north of Houghton Regis Bedfordshire, located close to M1 Junction 11a. Nestled into verdant surroundings, its first homes completed and inhabited in 2021. The Land Trust will maintain and preserve these spaces on behalf of Houghton Regis Management Company.