In Singapore, outdoor play is a required activity for young children. According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), outdoor activities must be a component of the curriculum of preschools in the country. A preschool that has full-day services, for instance, must schedule a 30-minute outdoor session daily or 45-minute outdoor activities thrice a week. A safe outdoor play space is also a requirement for every local preschool in Singapore. Even elementary school-aged children get to spend 2 to 2.5 hours every week outdoors in their play courts and school fields. Moreover, the typical Singapore international school curriculum for early learners also includes play sessions in purpose-built outdoor areas, ensuring that these children also benefit from playing in the open air and are given the freedom to explore and discover the joys of the outdoors.
Clearly, the country’s policymakers and educators see outdoor learning as an important aspect of early childhood education–and for good reasons. This is because the time spent outdoors can provide young children with the following benefits.
Playing Outdoors Contributes to Physical Development
Young children can find a space to play just about anywhere, but they can do so much more when they’re spending their playtime outdoors. While outside, they can engage in physical activities that will help them develop motor skills. Running and jumping, which are forms of play that kids typically do in an open environment, can help improve agility, stamina, stability, and bone density. Climbing is another form of exercise that can improve a child’s body, as it can aid them in building balance, strength, and coordination.
Outdoor Play Gives Children the Space to Explore Their Senses
The outdoors presents children with plenty of opportunities to use all their senses. This is a significant contrast to interactions that are screen-based and generally only require kids to use their sight and hearing. While outside and playing, kids can see and hear people and animals going about their day, smell and touch flowers and grass, feel what it’s like to jump on puddles, and maybe even eat and taste fruits if these are available during their outdoor session. Plus, increased outdoor time has also been shown to help prevent myopia in children. Thus, outdoor play can help children engage the world using their senses and even reduce the risk of developing nearsightedness.
It Presents Situations That Challenge the Children’s Cognitive Abilities
Children are curious about the world around them, and they can act on this desire to interact with their environment in a safe outdoor space. They are given the chance to initiate their engagement with items that pique their curiosity and determine how to respond to said items’ reaction. On top of that, playing outdoors can put young children in new situations and give them the means to participate in activities they don’t usually do. This can help them develop their sense of engagement, their ability to focus, and their observation skills.
Outdoor Play Encourages Social Interaction and Emotional Development
The outdoors is a great place to engage in group games, and young children are quick to recognize this opportunity to play. They can interact with other children during their games and get the chance to hone their communication, cooperation, and coordination skills. While playing outdoors, children can immediately see how their interactions will affect others and how it will impact their enjoyment of their group activities. For instance, young children will be able to see the benefits of being able to communicate in a clear and understandable manner while playing games that require cooperation. This, in turn, will encourage them to continue working on their communication skills, improve their ability to recognize their and their playmates’ feelings, and how to react appropriately in different situations.
Playing Outdoors Gives Children the Chance to Appreciate the Environment
Outdoor spaces like playgrounds, gardens, parks, and zoos offer young children an opportunity to appreciate nature up close. Activities held outside can make them aware of how their surrounding affects them and vice versa. Spending a day outdoors can help them understand how the weather impacts people and animals, for example. These interactions will eventually make it easier for them to determine the bigger roles that people play in caring for the environment. Also, outdoor sessions can help kids become more familiar with urban environments. Observing how cities work and how adults conduct themselves outdoors will eventually help kids become better observers of the rules and guidelines that keep them safe out on the streets.
Spending Time Outdoors Has Beneficial Effects on Children’s Health and Wellbeing
Children tend to engage in physical activities while they’re outdoors. The exercise they get through having fun and playing games outside will help them burn more stored energy, reduce their chances of developing obesity, and allow them to get enough vitamin D. At the same time, exposure to nature has a good effect on one’s mental health. Connecting with the natural environment has been shown to help reduce instances of anxiety, manage stress levels, and uplift one’s mood. This is a particular benefit that anyone at any age can start enjoying as soon as they spend more time in a thriving natural environment.
Playing outdoors is much more than just having fun. Letting kids engage in outdoor activities can present them with many practical benefits that will have a positive impact on their physical, mental, emotional, and social development. Parents, then, would do well to ensure that their kids are getting their required outdoor time in their school in Singapore.