We mummies love to chat with fellow mummies whenever we meet, don’t we? I was no exception. I started chatting with an expatriate mum who was with her kids at the playground one day. She brings her kids out every day. Having no winters here, she wondered why we do not do so too.
We ‘shared notes’ on the ‘whys’ and ‘why nots’, and how we engage our kids indoors during the rainy (and now also the ‘hazy’) seasons. (Hmm, there’s a reason why we mummies connect easily I think.) The conversation led me to realise the effect of outdoor play on a child’s development.
I know because my first-born was alone for years before number two came along. Being the busy full-time working mum then, outdoor time for my son was a luxury. As a first-time mum, and a not ‘kiasu’ one at that, I did not devour child development literature. I did what I felt was right to stretch his faculties. I thought I had enough to engage him at home in a safe and secure environment – Lego blocks, books, puzzles, toy cars and rifles, train sets, spider-man and other toys.
My second child was born after I moved to a ground floor apartment with a nearby playground. I did not indulge my daughter with many girly toys like fluffy bears and soft toys as I did not fancy them trapping dust (which somehow tends to favour ground floor units) that I had no time for. I made up by bringing her out more often to the playground since it was steps away. It was also pretty “neat” play to me – besides dirtying herself, I did not have to pack up after her! I began to enjoy bringing her out as she grew older and could play with other kids. I just relaxed and watched over her while chatting with fellow mummies!
Little did I see the benefits till today, when I observe the differences between my two kids, brought up under different extent of outdoor play, unknowingly, in their formative years.
My daughter tends to be more observant with a keen sense of curiosity about things around her, has more courage to try out new things, and a knack to solving problems.
A natural curiosity to learn, to try, and problem-solving skills – aren’t these the life-long learning values we want to instil in our children to prepare them for the new world?
My son is analytical and intelligent, but feels more comfortable in structured and safe environments, needing a nudge to try new things.
I have good reasons now to encourage friends to let their kids go out and roam. Besides the benefits of exercise, fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun, I am convinced that outdoor play produces a more pro-active child and learner.
Kids by nature love the outdoors: lots to see and play, and the space to run and explore.
Exploration ignites imagination. So why not put outdoor play to good use in developing our kids? Best of all, most outdoor play is free! Young kids fiddling with ipads and mobile phones need time-out for their eyes, bodies and souls!
When exposed early, kids have no fear – whether they are monkey bars, swings, sand or water. They find it fun and want to overcome the challenges. With proper supervision, they learn to overcome these ‘obstacles’ and build confidence. Those who fall will cry momentarily and return in no time. What better way to build resilience than through fun play?
The multi-sensory experience in outdoor play stimulates curiosity and creativity. Free play gives them room to explore nature, open spaces and the structures within with all their senses, and stretch their imagination. Through manoeuvring tunnels, slides, bars and platforms at playgrounds, they learn problem-solving and persistence.
Besides ball games, catching and hide-and-seek, I have seen how kids even invented games of their own when they come together. Communication skills and empathy is another value kids learn from interacting with their peers during play. When there is only 1 slide or see-saw, kids learn to wait their turns, share and negotiate. I recall once my daughter came running to me to seek my help to free a kitten that was chased and cornered by bigger boys.
Believing that eyesight could be improved by looking at greenery; I made it a point to bring my daughter to green spaces to relax her eyes too. What joy she had chasing butterflies and playing with cats and dogs at the playground! She even witnessed a monitor lizard fall into the swimming pool and being ‘rescued’!
She had lesser toys but more play outside – swings, sand, water-jets, see-saw, ‘rock-climbing’, roller-blading and skipping. She graduated from a tricycle to a 2-wheel today, beyond the confines of the playground to the banks of the many canal-turned-rivers under the government’s ABC (Active, Beautiful, Clean) Waters programme. She enjoys cycling all the way to Marina Barrage. She has also taken a liking to flying kites there.
Dirt and grime is the only unfavourable outcome from outdoor play we have to contend with. Contrary to what some may worry about exposing kids to sickness from bacteria, I am inclined to believe that growing up embracing nature helps build their immunity. My kids had fallen sick more often from catching bugs in child-care centres than from outdoor play!
The benefits outweigh the little risk of bacterial infection, which is really not an issue with proper hygiene practices.
In Singapore’s hot and sunny weather, I like dressing my kids in whites, as white reflects heat and light, and is hence more cooling on the body. My only gripe with outdoor play was when it comes to washing the clothes after the fun. When the kids started school, my laundry experience became more challenging with the white school uniform shirts they wear for long days in school. I have had my son coming back with ink and food stains.
I turned to overnight soaking, bleaching and scrubbing. I loathe the multi-step process, the scrubbing and the bleach which were not friendly to my hands, or the clothes, until I was introduced to Breeze Power Clean liquid detergent.
I dabbed a little Breeze to the stains before I drop the clothes with the rest into the washer.
Breeze Power Clean was able to tackle tough stains in one step, especially on my whites without me resorting to bleach anymore.
I often add half a capful of Comfort Ultra fabric softener for that super fresh, clean and soft feel. The new one I tried was to combat the five malodours of food, cigarette smoke, pollution, sweat and musty smell. The pleasant fragrance of Blossom Fresh was like the icing on the cake, lightening my washing ‘load’ and literally letting me breeze through an otherwise cumbersome laundry experience while letting us enjoy the outdoors.
The new Breeze Goodbye Musty caters to Singapore households which dry clothes indoors, especially during the rainy and haze seasons. It takes away the stale stench often associated with indoor drying. There is also Breeze Colour Care for dedicated attention to coloured clothes. Environmentally friendly mummies will be pleased to know Breeze now comes in refill packs.
My family and I have since embraced more outdoor activities; dirty clothes are the last thing on my mind now. I suggest busy mummies with similar lifestyles to try Breeze for its simple one-step laundry solution, or join in fellow mummies’ chatter for more sharing on outdoor play and laundry tips at facebook.