It’s official – children in Singapore are not spending enough time outdoors. According to a study published in 2021 by the British Journal of Ophthalmology, Singaporean children spent only one to 1½ hours outdoors each weekday, and one to two hours outdoors per day on weekends. This is as opposed to children in Australia and Britain, who spent an average of two to three hours outdoors each day.
We do have the pandemic, in part, to blame. Children were told to stay indoors and the work-from-home arrangements for parents inevitably also led to more screen time for them. Now with the situation easing all over the world, it’s high time children reclaim outdoor play! Outdoor play provides many other benefits that indoor learning cannot replace.
For one, the Great Outdoors allows children to explore, discover, and appreciate the natural world. It also provides varied opportunities for them to strengthen fine and gross motor movement skills as well as their bodies.
The benefits are endless – but let us pick our top ones for you.
Simply put - it makes them healthier
An obvious benefit of outdoor play for young ones is that it has positive effects on their physical health.
When outdoors, children have the luxury of space to run, jump, climb, move around, and test their bodies. Through regular outdoor activities and exploration, toddlers and preschoolers strengthen their muscles through repeated use. Depending on the type of activity, they can also improve fine and gross motor movement skills, boost agility and balance, and practise coordination.
You must be thinking – what is the best setting for such play then? To be honest, our average outdoor playground already offers a wealth of opportunities. Some of our centres, like Star Learners centre at one-north, boast a sizable outdoor area with a specially-built playground, designed to help our children make the most of their outdoor play sessions. Needless to say, our children are always seen dashing out of the classrooms into the outdoors during playtime!
It helps develop social and emotional skills
More than just physical benefits, outdoor play also provides socio-emotional ones.
This is because many outdoor activities that help develop gross motor skills in children involve teamwork and interaction with others. As children communicate with each other during play, invent games and plan for their favourite activities together, they learn how to express themselves, be creative, compromise, and take turns. As a result, they take home values such as empathy, cooperation and friendship.
During outdoor play, opportunities abound for children to work on building their relationships with peers. They also begin to learn how to regulate their emotions in response to others, as well as how to interact in positive ways.
Opportunities for hands-on learning
Hands-on learning is another of the benefits of preschool outdoor play and learning. Some children actually prefer this learning approach, and some concepts are simply better communicated with it too.
Take the connection and appreciation for the natural world as an example. Gardening and similar outdoor activities are better at fostering this than in-class lessons! They provide children with a hands-on, fun, educational method for appreciating the world around us. And they let kids have that experience in a way that no lesson or book could.
At our centres, children are often encouraged to get their hands dirty and experience first-hand how it is like to grow and nurture their own plants and vegetables. As we put them in charge of such activities, we see children feel more invested and interested in the topics that are introduced to them.
With outdoor environments offering rich and diverse sensory opportunities, outdoor play is an excellent way of stimulating our young ones’ senses.
Activities such as nature walks, gardening, and sensory play can help stimulate a preschooler’s sense of touch, sight, smell, and hearing. Such environments pique a child’s natural curiosity, and can lead them to investigate different objects and materials using their senses.
Often, our educators guide children to engage in multisensory experiences such as touching and smelling flowers, discovering textures and colours of leaves, and more!
This exposure to stimuli can help improve sensory processing skills and overall cognitive as well as motor development. At the same time, it deepens their learning and engagement with the environment, making it a great way to show them to the wonders of the world!
Connection to nature
We mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth listing as a separate benefit because it’s so important: outdoor learning encourages a better connection with nature.
Children who spend more time exploring the flora and fauna develop an inclination and curiosity towards it. Establishing this strong relationship between nature and themselves allows children to better appreciate the world they are living in. And as they grow up, these children feel a greater sense of responsibility towards nature, the environment and their surroundings in general.
At Star Learners, we organise regular field trips to nurture this love for the environment in our children. Every excursion is an opportunity for our preschoolers to gain new learning experiences that widen their perspectives!
Let them play - outdoors!
Whether your little one is still a toddler or already in kindergarten, outdoor play promises a slew of benefits for them.
If they are spending most of their day at a preschool, be sure that your child has ample outdoor learning opportunities. Not all preschools integrate outdoor learning effectively into their programmes, so be sure to check with your preferred preschools before enrolling.
At Star Learners, outdoor learning is part of our core programme. We provide children with safe, age-appropriate outdoor experiences and adventures to encourage further learning and growth.
If you’d like to learn about the specific types of outdoor activities we have in store for our children, enquire with us today! Or register your interest for a personalised school tour at any of our 43 Star Learners centres island-wide.