Playing outdoors for children in the UAE does raise its fair share of concerns due to safety as well as the unforgiving heat. However, outdoor play can benefit your child’s physical and mental health that other forms of play cant.
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Outdoor play is also encouraged in this day and age as technology advancements for education and leisure are keeping children at home behind a computer and mobile devices. A UAE based study with data collected from 400 Emirati mothers has shown that the average 2-12-year-old only gets 1 hour of outdoor play per month.
The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children
- Builds up Independence – Outdoor play will encourage children to take their initiative into what they do and who they play with. Particularly for younger children, outdoor play encourages them to use their brains and be selective in terms of what they play with and who they play with. This teaches children how to be independent and self-reliant from a young age.
- Being inclusive of others – When playing outdoors, children are put in a position where they engage, interact and learn with fellow children. This allows them to break social barriers with children of all ethnicities, disabilities and other differences without being judgemental. In general, this will encourage them to be more inclusive of others from a young age that they can carry into adulthood.
- Improved physical health – The most obvious benefit of outdoor play as opposed to staying at home is the physical activity that they can benefit from. Climbing walls, swinging on the swings and running around gives them a bit of cardiovascular exercise as well as promoting the healthy growth of bones and muscles. This also helps them stay flexible and promotes joint health. Physical activity during outdoor play is also good for younger children in building their five senses and motor skills.
- Improved emotional health – The stimulation children get from outdoor play can greatly benefit their mood. In a society where social pressures can get the best of most young people, it is at the younger ages where children can learn and develop an understanding on how to get away from it with physical play. Children can escape and detox from frustrations and built up energy through play in a positive way.
- Better immune system – one of the most common reasons why parents will encourage children to play outdoors is, so they are exposed to different environments and variables of the outside world. All the bacteria they are exposed to from the outdoors will test their immune system and develop its strength as children age.
- Better social skills – Outdoor play is one of the best ways for children to develop social skills and make new friends. These days its quite common for children to make friends through online gaming; however, we all know the dangers and negative side of that. Playing outdoors and engaging with others will help children to build up self-esteem as well as learning to get along with others and working in a team.
- Encourages creativity – Outdoor play encourages children to get creative. If you aren’t in a park with typical facilities, children can come up with game ideas as well as find ways to stimulate their curiosity and excitement as opposed to having everything available to them.
Things to Keep in Mind
1. Keep it interesting
Outdoor play isn’t just limited to a particular location or activity. Encourage your kids to try new sports, bring them to different places and interact with other children. The UAE has outdoor parks all over the city that children can enjoy. Avoid them from getting bored.
2. Don’t overdo it
What we mean by overdoing is by letting them play outdoors or playing in general too often. You need to create a balance between leisure and other activities. This also means not relying too much on outdoor play to stimulate the interests of children.
3. Beware of the weather
The amount of sunlight in the UAE can cause serious harm to your children’s health. Be sure they are covered in enough clothing to avoid skin exposure to the sun as well as using sunscreen. If your child is quite young (below five years of age), it’s best not to let them play outdoors for too long as the air quality isn’t the best to breathe.
4. Never leave them alone
Safety is one of the biggest concerns for parents when taking their kids outdoors. You never know who or what they will encounter. Always keep an eye on your child and make sure you are aware of where they are and what they are doing at all times. There’s nothing wrong with being over cautious about your child’s safety.
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