Let your kid play outdoors — it’ll benefit him

Why outdoor play is vital to your child’s all-round development, especially in building his resilience to meet challenges he’ll encounter.

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Ferrying Junior to various enrichment classes, supervising him as he does his homework and then taking on a mountain of household chores. With so many things dominating your waking hours on most weekends, you may put making time for pure, unbridled outdoor play on the back burner.

Add to the list the dirty, muddied laundry that comes with letting your child play outdoors, and you are more than ready to hand over your iPad to him.

But MindChamps PreSchool @ City Square Mall principle, Dorothy Tan notes the physical and mental stimulation that comes with play does have a place in your child’s development. “Sitting has been shown to increase fatigue and reduce concentration, while moderate to vigorous movement feeds oxygen, water and glucose to the brain, optimising its performance.”

“Sitting has been shown to increase fatigue and reduce concentration, while moderate to vigorous movement feeds oxygen, water and glucose to the brain, optimising its performance.”

Unfortunately, children in Singapore seem to be getting too much screen time. A study by DQ Institute and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), found that nine-year-olds are spending over 24 hours a week — or about three and a half hours daily — on electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets. The study which surveyed 1,407 children aged between eight and 12 was conducted from August to December last year.

Tan points out playing outside will not only benefit your child’s physical skills like motor skills, body coordination and cardiovascular endurance. It also enhances his thinking skills as well.

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Your child’s thinking skill is an important part of his growth as it can affect his ability to process information, solve problems, recall and communicate. These are essential skills that will equip him to overcome the challenges in life.

The ability to boost one’s self-esteem through self-fulfilment is another aspect to life that can’t be learnt in the classroom, notes Tan. When your child overcomes the challenges or obstacles he faces during outdoor play and accomplishes something he felt was impossible, it’ll do wonders for his self-esteem.

Tan explains your child’s comprehension of action and descriptive words like stomp and gentle are more immediate and lasting when they experience exactly what it means, outside of the classroom.

Time is a key barrier to outdoor play for many parents, but it can be overcome by simply starting junior off at the playground downstairs or the nearby park.

Lee-Lim Hwee Hoon, mother to Samuel Lee, 5, certainly sees the benefits of letting her son play outside. Her kindergartener gets to learn swimming, play badminton, or indulge in some beach or playground fun at least twice a week. “He is definitely more willing to take up challenges since he started playing outdoors more. He is getting more resilient and explorative.”

A traditional Chinese medicine physician advised Lee to let her son play outside as a means to enhance his health. And Samuel isn’t stopping at his weekly activities. Inspired to collect medals after finishing the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore’s Kids Dash last December, Samuel also trained to overcome his fear of heights for the Spartan Kids Race which took place this May.

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Lee — proud of her son for showing conviction at such a tender age — feels encouraged by his reaction. "He went running and attempted the obstacles at the fitness corner [and] it made me believe that letting him play outside was the right thing to do. I will definitely encourage him to try new activities and challenges."

A key barrier to outdoor play for many parents is time, but it can be overcome by simply starting junior off at the playground downstairs or the nearby park. Lee did so before progressing Samuel to swimming and badminton lessons, and recently, planned races like Spartan Junior Race.

“Outdoor play doesn't set boundaries on what a child is capable of achieving.”

As for concerns over safety, Lee feels that parents have to let go of their fears in order for their children to grow. “Classroom or other indoor activities don’t allow a child to explore his environment or develop the muscle strength as much as the carefully planned obstacles in the Spartan Kids Race. Outdoor play doesn't set boundaries on what a child is capable of achieving.”

Another barrier that you may face is laundry woes. Lee points out, "To be honest, cleaning up can be a chore [and] I don’t let my son wear white clothes when he’s playing outside because I’m worried that his outfits will be ruined by dirt stains. That’s why having a detergent that has tough stain removal power is very important to me.”

A version of this article by Khoo Bee Khim was first published in TODAYONLINE.

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