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Want a cheap and easy way to improve your kids’ chances of health and success? At Singapore American School (SAS), they make sure they spend time playing outdoors! For parents who stick to Singapore’s air-conditioned indoor spaces, the idea of venturing outside with young children can be intimidating. But there are plenty of reasons to weave outdoor play into your children’s free time. The fresh air, change of scene, and space to explore will do them good – and you’ll probably enjoy it too!
Kids are built to move
How many kids can sit for hours at a desk labouring over lessons and homework? Even though it may seem counterintuitive at first, longer time on a task doesn’t make for better results. On the contrary, it only leads to faster and greater burnout.
If you give children time for unstructured, outdoor play, you hit the reset button – an amazing tool to re-stimulate those brain cells to focus. This downtime helps to break days into shorter sessions, allowing kids to take the pressure off and thrive in an environment where the mind-body connection can flourish.
“Physical activity is cognitive candy,” says developmental molecular biologist Dr. John Medina. Exercise boosts brain power. Play is also linked to improvements in academic skills, classroom behaviour, healthy emotional attitudes and better adjustment to school life. The case for children doing something physical every day is growing. Jenny Seham of the National Dance Institute in New York City says she has observed for years the measurable academic and social results of school children who study dance. She notes the positive changes in self-discipline, grades, and sense of purpose in life that her students demonstrate.
Why play outdoors?
Outdoor settings inspire kids to move, explore, and imagine, just as they have for centuries. And research confirms that time spent outside is great for children’s health and wellbeing. The American Medical Association concluded that “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier, when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors.” Why?
- Running, climbing, observing, and expressing themselves outdoors helps kids develop gross and fine motor skills
- Unstructured playtime improves kids’ cooperation, focus, and goal-setting; allows them to take risks and develop resilience; and encourages creativity and self-confidence
- Children engage all their senses when exploring nature, as there’s always something new to see, hear, touch, smell, and even taste
- Encouraging a love of nature when kids are young helps them to develop lifelong healthy hobbies like hiking, gardening, birdwatching, mountain biking, and photography
- Just a few minutes of daily “green exercise” has proven biological benefits, including muscle and heart health, production of vitamin D (benefiting immune systems, bones, and sleep), preventing myopia and obesity, and reducing levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol
- Nature enhances kids’ mental and spiritual wellbeing through inspiring curiosity and wonder, promoting calmness and happiness, and reducing hyperactivity
When should we play?
If your family doesn’t usually spend time outdoors, start small. Build a little time into each day to get out – visit a nearby park or playground, walk to the corner store, take a quick scooter or bike ride, or stroll through the neighbourhood. The key is to make the outdoor routine easy and rewarding. Little by little you’ll find what works for you and your family.
Where should we play?
Singapore has all sorts of kid-friendly outdoor options. If you’re at a playground or park, give the kids space while observing them discreetly. If activities like hiking need some spice, create a simple scavenger hunt or a goal of finding a certain number of animals or plants. And consider bringing the outdoors inside with a “nature nook” for outdoor collectiblesor potted plants to nurture.
Singapore American School
40 Woodlands St 41, Singapore, 738547
Phone: +65 6363 3403