I recently read a study which highlighted that almost half of pre-school age children don’t play outside each day. Yes, whilst I appreciate that a few months a year in Dubai, the weather is ridiculously hot and humid, it should not mean that our children are sedentary for those four months!
In-depth analysis has shown that children of today tend to spend significantly less time outdoors than they did say twenty years ago. Outdoors play, which some call ‘rough and tumble play’, does seem to have been taken over by video games, television and more desk-bound activities… I hope after reading this short article all of us mamas will try and incorporate a little more out-door activity based time into our weekly timetables!
At the simplest level ‘play’ is vital to a child’s development; play for example can be realized in the forms of role play, creative play, water and sand play etc. Research and common-sense highlights that play is essential for a happy, healthy life. With regard to outdoor play, this is where a child will learn on multiple levels with each new adventure encountered. When children make sandcastles, splash in water, climb a tree and run about in green open space their brains develop at a much faster rate than those who play indoors. It has been proved that children become better learners, do well in school and have an active imagination if they play outside each day.
Not only are there mental developmental advantages to playing outside there are also proven physical rewards to such activities. If a child is introduced to the outdoors when young this child is highly likely to be active and fit when older. This, of course, means a healthy grown up! As you will know, many children in Dubai suffer from Vitamin D deficiencies. We all need this vitamin in preventing future bone problems and Diabetes. Of course, this can be achieved through the provision of a Vitamin D supplement, but why do this when you could take your child into the garden or to the beach for twenty minutes? It’s natural and costs nothing….
Outdoor activities provides an outlet for life’s physical stresses, it also provides children with better motor skills and coordination as well as improved concentration.
Here are my tips for encouraging your child to explore the outdoors (of course common-sense with regard to the weather, shelter from the sun, lots of cold drinks and time of day you under-take outside play must always form part of your planning):
1. Forget driving to Spinneys try and walk it! Children will not only experience the outdoors but will learn heaps about safety, traffic light signals and direction.
2. Use your garden, local park or beach. Take a ball, have a teddy bears picnic, arrange that play date in the park; take a bag of toys, a rug and your little one will have a lovely day!
3. In my family, Freddie loves to hang out the washing. Allow your child to do everyday outdoor tasks like helping clean the car, cleaning windows or watering the plants.
4. Allow your child to get messy, mucky and muddy! Better to keep this outdoors than indoors!
If children learn to love being outdoors when they are young it will make them healthier. It will also ensure they take better care of our world when they are adults.
Aimee Collett is a highly qualified trained Early Years Professional. Gained her Bachelor of Arts in Childhood Development from the University of Bristol and continued her studies, completing her professional status. She managed a nursery in the South of England and was graded outstanding in an OFSTEAD inspection and a manager examination. After moving to Dubai, she managed schools for 3 years, and then embarked on opening her own nursery: The Jumeirah Lake Towers. Located on a park, it focuses on healthy lifestyle and follows the Early Years Foundation. If you want to get in contact with her, please email her.