The World is Right Outside Your Door!
So, I attended an interesting conference this week. One of the most interesting sessions was a talk given by Mr Griffin Longley, CEO of Nature Play, WA. He shared on the importance of having children being out there to just play in the natural environment.
In our urbanized city-living place of Singapore, this is a huge challenge. Yet, as I see the kids walk in through clinic, and hear how our kids are less mobile these days compared to when I was a child, and see how the impact of that reduced physical mobility from infancy in many of our families has influenced their motor development, the importance of nature play cannot be over-emphasized.
With the advent of easy Internet accessibility and early screen exposure, the accessibility of outdoor play amongst nature is becoming increasingly remote. A longitudinal study in Australia showed that Australian children spend less than two hours outside per day. What about our Singaporean children?
Physical ability and literacy (do we even know there’s such as thing as physical literacy) can be fostered by outdoor play. Physical fluency can be improved. Can your child run? Climb? Throw? Catch? Bat? In addition to all the benefits of motor agility, which will translate into better stability, stronger core skills, improved fine motor manipulation and writing skills, there are loads of other benefits. Social emotional development, friendship building, negotiation skills, motor planning and organizational skills are but a few of these.
When I was growing up, we played on the sand. We did hopscotch, skipping, rounders, Ye-Ye and zero-points (games using a long self-made interconnected rubber band rope), in the process of which, we strengthened our gross motor skills. We played five (or four) stones, darts, kuti-kuti (manipulation of tiny plastic animals, challenging other players) and pick up sticks, strengthening fine motor and manipulative skills. These games are gradually being lost. We created pirate ships at the playground, acted out cops and robbers, challenged the mother hen and her chickens by being an eagle and a host of other characters, developing our role play, social skills and creativity.
Nowadays, parents pay to have their neurotypical kids attend speech and drama and gyms in concrete buildings, away from nature.
We need to return our children to nature. We need to revive the old games. We need to let them breathe the fresh air, see the green trees and smell the flowers. Let us do justice to our children. Bring them out of the box and into the world!
Dr Lian Wee Bin
Paediatrics and Neonatal Specialist