Outdoor play is a fundamental component of a child’s overall development and learning.
As the leading nursery programme in Dubai, we understand the importance of social interactions in child development. Being able to remain active and explore the natural environment supports, motivates, and encourages social interactions.
However, outdoor play has dwindled in recent years, being replaced by time spent in front of a computer or television.
While technologies such as mobile devices, computers, and television have become an inescapable part of today’s family life, growing data has found that excessive screen time, or time spent in front of these devices, can have detrimental effects on a child’s development.
Studies reported by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Pediatrics have found that children who experience more screen time than is recommended may experience developmental delays and increased behavioural issues, as well as demonstrate less progress in communication skills, problem-solving, and social interactions.
At Step By Step Nursery, we strongly believe in outdoor play as it provides a variety of benefits not accessible through screen-based entertainment. Below are five good reasons why parents need to put down the screens and encourage children to participate in outdoor play.
1. Outdoor play improves social skills.
There are countless simple outdoor activities for toddlers to participate in. From “Simons Says” and “Ready, Steady, Go” to simply painting rocks outdoors, these activities encourage children to not only participate in their surroundings but also engage with other children.
Being able to join in on such games allows children to interact with others and make new friends. Children get to display empathy, express personal needs, communicate effectively with others, and learn good manners.
The development of strong social skills at an early age means they will be better equipped with interpersonal, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills.
2. It encourages physical activity.
The adoption of a more sedentary lifestyle has given rise to chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, which is why regular physical exercise is encouraged.
Children who participate in more physical activity at an early age develop:
- Better self-esteem
- Stronger bones, muscles, and joints
- Better posture and balance
- A healthier weight
- Less stress
- Better focus and concentration
Promoting physical activity during a child’s development continues with them for the rest of their lives. And there are many ways parents can support and motivate their children to participate in physical activity.
For babies and preschoolers, these activities can include push and pull games with balls, walking to the playground, playing games like “peek-a-boo,” and playing music and encouraging your child to dance. These activities should be supervised and the child must have a safe space to play in.
3. It improves sensory skills.
Sensory exploration is a crucial part of brain development in toddlers and young children.
Unlike screens, which only use two senses (hearing and sight), outdoor play allows children to make use of their five senses to explore their surroundings. Being able to participate in sensory play allows children to define different sensory information and develop their sensory-related synapses and functions.
Being able to participate in sensory play like stomping in puddles (hearing and touch), seeing new animals (sight), finding new rocks or leaves (sight and touch), and discovering new flowers (sight, touch, and smell) provides sensory feedback that cannot be experienced through a screen.
These types of sensory activities engage children in learning environments at a young age. When children can use multiple senses to accomplish a task, their young brains can properly develop linguistic, cognitive, visual-spatial, and social skills.
At Step By Step Nursery, we offer a delightful sensory garden where children can enjoy all kinds of stimulating and educational activities.
4. It develops stronger independence.
Independent play teaches young children to be self-reliant and develops their creativity and critical-thinking skills. Outdoor spaces are ideal for parents to encourage their children to take charge of their own amusement and negotiate an unfamiliar surrounding.
Even babies as young as six months old can participate in independent play. At such a young age, parents can start with five or 10 minutes of independent play where the child can practice playing with a toy. Use brightly coloured toys that make a sound and are easy to grasp to stimulate development.
As the child gets older (six to 18 months), independent play should be extended to 20 or 30 minutes. Playing with toys and activities like stacking rings allows children to develop fine motor skills, identify cause-and-effect relationships, and develop observational skills.
It should be noted though that screen time should never be considered as a part of or a substitute for independent play.
5. It boosts children’s happiness.
Free and unstructured outdoor play is the best way for children to explore, make decisions, and take charge of their physical activity.
Being able to run around in open, unrestricted environments offers children the opportunity to develop motor skills and spatial and body awareness, as well as get along with others.
However, the value of outdoor play extends beyond physical wellness. Data shows that exposure to nature allows children to de-stress. Nature has a soothing effect, lowering levels of anxiety and hyperactivity in children.
Sunshine also stimulates the pineal gland, a crucial part of the brain that keeps our immune system and mental health strong.
The more outdoor physical activity children get to participate in, the better their mental well-being becomes. This creates a more positive mental attitude and ultimately helps children exhibit fewer development issues.
Let’s go exploring
These days, more and more children have less contact with nature. At Step By Step Nursery, we aim to change that.
Our curricula are developed to positively impact the lives of young children. Every programme we provide, for babies and toddlers to preschoolers, exposes them to the positive effects of nature, allowing them to develop strong cognitive, social, and emotional skills.
Our preschools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi follow a curriculum that combines both The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and The Reggio Emilia Approach. This combination enriches children’s learning and development and encourages children to discover their full potential and connect with the world around them.
Children are natural explorers. Let them discover the wonders of the great outdoors in a safe and encouraging space. Contact us today to learn more about our curriculum and schedule a tour.