In metropolitan city Singapore, long gone are the rustic kampungs of old, having now been replaced by a sprawling concrete jungle. While homes have become more comfortable and well-equipped, the outdoors has seemingly become further out of reach today, as many of us would much prefer to stay indoors.
The rise of digital devices means children and adults can be kept occupied for hours at home and at school. Without realising, the current generation of children has fewer opportunities to go outside and play. Parents’ fears add another blow, as increased awareness of risks deter them from letting their children out to play.
Educators say this is not a good sign, as outdoor play is a crucial component in children’s learning and development. For the benefits that regular outdoor experience gives to young kids, parents should make a conscious effort to provide sufficient outdoor time to their children.
What benefits does outdoor learning have for young children?
- Encourage an active lifestyle
One marked difference between the indoors and outdoors is the amount of space available. Outdoor activity allows for freedom of movement and intense physical activity. This is a huge advantage over the confines of being indoors, as energetic young children need outlets to expend their energy.
From running to climbing, the range of activities performed outdoors is great for promoting active lifestyle habits as well as developing essential motor skills like coordination and strength. At the same time, exercise and nature are known to be excellent mood-boosters, so you can be sure your little tykes come home feeling great.
- Learn about nature
Being outdoors usually means being close to nature. Kids, as naturally curious beings, will want to find out more about the world around them. Hence, outdoor opportunities are an excellent time for them to ask questions about plants, things in the sky, insects, and so on.
Through experiencing nature up-close, they will be able to learn scientific concepts, as well as gain an appreciation for nature. In a time where environmental conservation is such a highly-discussed issue, building a consciousness for the environment from young is the first step to nurturing the mind of a concerned global citizen.
- Develop problem-solving skills
When children are allowed free reign to play, their imaginations become their source of entertainment. A playground can turn into their pirate ship, and the ground can turn into the sea – all in the minds of the children.
Not only does this boost their creativity, but it also trains their problem-solving skills when they need to respond to different situations. For example, try telling them that the pirate ship has crashed! Then watch as the children pretend to fall into the ‘water’ and ‘save’ each other, or gather up ‘tools’ to fix the ‘ship’ – by their actions, they show that they understand the cause and effect of ‘crashing ship’, and they show their attempt to respond to that situation by using their imagination and resourcefulness.
- Promote social skills
Playing outdoors exposes kids to other kids, and oftentimes, it doesn’t take long for them to start playing together. In the process of playing, children gain a lot of practice on cooperation and communication that can only be obtained from real-life experience.
For instance, children need to set the rules and appoint roles if they want to play a game together. If there’s a disagreement, they learn how to talk it out and solve the problem together. If there’s an accident, it is an opportunity to learn how to apologise and make things right. Hence, outdoor play allows them ample opportunities to practice these social situations.
- Understanding risk
Of course, being outdoors comes with its fair share of hazards, such as tripping over steps, bumping into friends, receiving bug bites and being exposed to strangers. However, all these are part and parcel of life that your little tyke needs to learn to deal with, and what better way than to do it under your close supervision?
As you go along, the little ones will also learn to recognise the dangers for themselves and adjust their behaviours according to the situation. Not only does this keep them safe without the need for incessant reminders, but it also teaches them to assess their surroundings and develops decision-making skills.
What are some tips for parents to ensure their child gets enough outdoor time?
Evidently, outdoor time is valuable for children in more ways than one. However, how can parents make sure their children are receiving enough outdoor time, especially when it can be tempting to just sit them at home in front of the television?
- Fork out time every day
As a busy parent, you might think it will be hard to find time to bring your child outdoors every day. However, it doesn’t have to take long – experts recommend at least 40 minutes of outdoor activity daily for young kids. Try incorporating some outdoor time before dinner as a routine, and get yourself a walk and some fresh air as well.
- Spend family day going on field trips
If daily outdoor time is out of the question, make it a point to bring your kids out on family days. Engage the children in nature walks, gardening workshops, kite-flying, and so on. There are ample activities that a family can do together outdoors, so make good use of your precious time together to give your children some sun and physical workout!
- Choose a school that emphasises outdoor learning
To effectively give your child sufficient outdoor opportunities, you can enrol your child in a school that dedicates time for it. Canadian International School has a kindergarten programme that supports outdoor learning in learning pods and their outdoor discovery centre. The school providing IB education in Singapore also offers a range of outdoor learning opportunities such as the Open Minds programme in the IB primary years programme, and other field trips and excursions.
Be it outdoor play or more structured outdoor learning programmes, children benefit immensely from regularly exposure to nature and the world around them. If your child is not already receiving enough outdoor opportunities, why not start by bringing them out this evening? To go one step further, you can give your child the best by giving them the experience of learning in a top international school that provides ample avenues for outdoor learning and play.