According to a 2018 article on the Independent, one in four children under six now own a smartphone – and almost half of them spend up to 21 hours on their devices per week. That works out to around three hours each day – precious hours which should be spent playing rather than scrolling through games and apps.
All that screen time is cutting into the hours that children spend playing outside, which comes with a host of benefits during the early years.
From building up their immunity to picking up social skills, here are some of the ways in which children can benefit from outdoor play – according to research.
1. Learning how to learn beyond the walls of preschool in Singapore
Playing outdoors teaches kids learning techniques that can be applied at kindergartens in Singapore. Swinging, for example, allows children to experience “cause and effect” and to see things from new perspectives. Outdoor learning also encourages them to think of learning as an ongoing process rather than one that is confined to the walls of the classroom.
2. Sharpening their motor skills
Outdoor play helps children use their different muscles when they participate in various activities. For example, when children are pushed or push others in swings, they have to engage all of their muscles to hold on and coordinate their body to the movement of the swing. Other toys like skates or scooters require balance and coordination, thus encouraging children to develop confidence in their abilities.
At some MindChamps PreSchool centres, children get to enjoy playtime outside right outside their centre which comes with a dedicated outdoor play area. For example, at MindChamps PreSchool @ Concorde Hotel, the preschoolers get to go on the slides and try out games like hopscotch at the bright and cheery outdoor playground. The children have a lot of fun trying out and inventing new games with each other.
Read also: The Value of Play: Age-appropriate Play Activities for Children
3. Learning social skills for life beyond the kindergarten years in Singapore
Outdoor play also emphasises the importance of playing with others. When left alone, children will naturally play with each other and learn to lead, follow and adhere to rules in order to have fun. They also learn how to problem solve and adapt as a team, making new friends as they go.
Outdoor spaces also encourage children to get out of their shell and make new friends, which could be helpful for the shy ones. At MindChamps PreSchool @ Bedok, there is an eco-garden outside the centre where children get to work together and learn as they grow Luffas and flowers. All of the children, from playgroup to nursery and kindergarten levels, get to learn to care for plants and work as a team at the same time.
4. Enhancing their athletic abilities
Playing outdoors allows your kids to feel “free” – more so than they would be if they were confined indoors. From running at full speed to jumping and climbing, all these help develop “physical literacy” – or the ability to learn various activities and sports quickly.
Activities like playing ball or “catch” could also help develop skills needed for games like basketball, netball or even cross-country. Encouraging outdoor play also involves nurturing a love for physical activity in children, and these could very well turn out to become their sporting interests in the future.
5. Improving their physical health
You might have known that more time spent playing outdoors does wonders to the health of children, such as reducing the risk of myopia. In fact, studies have shown how outdoor play can help to combat childhood obesity, as children who played outside more often experienced a decrease in BMI.
Being outside ensures that children get a healthy dose of sunshine, which helps in bone health. This is vital for kids and their growing bodies, and research has also shown that a deficiency in Vitamin D (which we get spending time under the sun) may also cause heart disease and diabetes.
Lastly, being outside is great for children as it helps regulate their circadian rhythm – where light stimulus and the lack thereof tells our body when to feel sleepy. Thus, all that running around outside could be the key to a good night’s sleep for children – and their parents!
6. Benefitting their mental health
Besides physical benefits, playing outdoors is also beneficial to their mental health. Not only does physical activity helps lower their anxiety level, being amidst nature has a positive impact on their mental health.
Being outside lowers cortisol levels in children, which is our body’s main stress hormone. When they are surrounded by greenery, children feel connected to nature, which could even lower their risk of behavioural problems like hyperactivity or distress.
At MindChamps Tanglin, some lessons are brought outdoors to inculcate an appreciation for nature in the kids. At this childcare centre in Singapore, children create bark rubbings or drawings of various leaves and stones as part of their art lessons.
Read also: The ‘Play’ in Playgroup: How do these activities benefit your child’s development?
Easing the concerns of parents over outdoor play at childcare centres in Singapore
When it comes to outdoor play, some parents may have concerns about safety issues and the heat from the sun. Having open communication with your child’s teachers and the school can help to ease some of these worries, as you find out what safety protocols are put in place so that children get to explore and benefit from their outdoor play experience.
At all MindChamps PreSchool centres, teachers are always on hand to ensure that the children are playing safely, and that outdoor play is scheduled at a certain timing of the day so that the kids do not get exhausted or affected by the sun.
To find out more about how we incorporate outdoor play into our daily lessons:
Written by Steffi Wee