Activity key to improving children's mental health

A new report from the APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood says that getting children moving can kick-start a solution to the children’s mental health crisis.

Welcoming ‘Mental Health through Movement,’ APPG Chair, Steve McCabe MP said: "Nobody nowadays will deny that a crisis in children’s mental health exists. We’re saying that getting children moving is an obvious part of the solution. Health education has been statutory since September 2019 and pupils should expect at least thirty active minutes per day.

"Professionals and parents need guidance but unless some of the excellent examples that we lis there are shared, most children won’t derive the benefit. This is a responsibility of Government just as much as providing much-needed additional funding streams for children’s mental health services."

The report cites the digital culture as the reason for children staying indoors and staying still; alongside reductions in opportunities for outdoor play.

The report says that there are schemes, such as those below, that can offer a way forward if advocated by Government as part of a ‘Movement in Mind’ strategy.

Stormbreak is a charity registered  that works with senior primary school-leaver sand teachers in shaping a whole school approach to embedding mental health benefits through movements for every child every day.

Girls Active, funded by SportEngland, is a flexible action-planned framework to help teachers and girls in understanding what motivates them to move more.

OPAL (Outdoor Playand Learning) Programme is a structured play-based intervention, successfully delivered into hundreds of schools in ten countries worldwide.

Energise for Healthier lives (E4HL) is a year London Borough of Camden lifestyle year support package for children and families who are inactive and have an unhealthy lifestyle.

ClearSky (Playand Creative Arts) charity is an intervention model to help children who have been referred for therapy following trauma.

The report was jointly sponsored by the universities of Bournemouth and Winchester.

The Association of Play Industries (API) contributed to the report, outlining how children are pulled indoors by the power of digital culture and pushed away from outdoor play due to severe cuts to playground provision.

API Chair Mark Hardy says: “Over 1100 parents responded to our Play Must Stay survey through Mumsnet telling us loudly and clearly that this is an issue they are extremely worried about.

“All scientific evidence points to the fact that movement is vital for children’s mental health and for normal, healthy development.  We have now a generation of children who are being deprived of free, unstructured, outdoor play and as such, a troubled generation."