Encouraging Active Play
While it’s fascinating to see our Gen Z children growing up as digital natives, comfortably acclimating to the newest app or gadget, it’s important that we balance their digital swipe time with physical play time.
As multitasking moms, gadgets have become our go-to nannies but Mommy Mundo child expert and center directress of Playworks Early Childhood Centers, Gabby Roa-Limjoco, gives us the low down on why need to motivate our children to get up, get out and go play.
How important is play to the growth of children?
Teacher Gabby: From 6yrs old to Gen Z’s, Play is important for children of all ages. Free play, especially for school-age children, allows them time to unwind – especially after a full day of academic work and staying seated for the most part of their day. Allowing children this time helps their mind to relax and be prepared for the next school day.
Free play, which is child-directed – with activities chosen by the child – allows the child’s imagination to explore. They are able to “mess about” and try to make sense of their world, materials and things. It is in free play where real learning happens.
What are the benefits of active play to kids?
Teacher Gabby: Physically, active play allows children to exercise their big muscles and move them in various ways. It helps children gain coordination and motor control. It helps them learn mastery of their bodies as they attempt various movements.
For brain development, active play allows the brain time to unwind and relax. Studies have shown that children who were given recess time did better at cognitive tests against children who were not give active play time. Science has also shown a connection between physical activity and brain development such as fusing connections between neural pathways.
For emotional development, when we were younger and playing on the streets with our neighbors, we were usually left on our own. This allowed us to learn how to negotiate like when a playmate didn’t follow our rules and how to accept failure when things didn’t go our way.
Active play teaches children grit and perseverance such as to keep on trying until you make it from one monkey bar to another thus building confidence in their own abilities. It also teaches children about social development, such as in group games, and knowing how to follow rules and how to get along with others.
Why is it important to balance exposure to gadgets with active play time?
Teacher Gabby: Active play time for children should be protected and promoted by parents and all adults who make decisions for children because studies have shown that children who have been given time to play are better overall. They have happier dispositions, learn how to self-regulate, how to handle stress and let downs and do better at cognitive tasks. While technology has its own benefits, it should not take the place of active play time, even just for the health benefits of being able to exercise and allow children to move their bodies.
As a mother of three young Gen Z’s and owner of a preschool for children ages 6 months to to 5 years old, could you share your own experiences on how you encourage active play?
Teacher Gabby: Our preschool is located in a building at the Central Business District in Makati. We have a fair-sized indoor playground to ensure that our students still have time for big body play. We also do our best to take them out to the nearby parks for opportunities to run and climb on other playground structures – and just to be outdoors and with trees and grass. For some, this is their only opportunity for gross motor movement. We value this time for our students. We find places to take them -even just pockets of open spaces in the city. In our SM Aura Campus, we also have an indoor playground and access to a garden space on top of the mall. Likewise, we keep this active play time sacred for the children.
For my own girls, I also try to get them to the village park or out of town as much as possible so they can get moving.
Can you give suggestions on how moms can encourage active play?
Teacher Gabby: Moms seem to worry about mosquitoes or the weather (either too hot or rainy), not being able to choose who will be at the park and if their child will get hurt by other children. There are ways they can provide active play time for their children such as timing (choosing early mornings for example, where there could be less children, cooler temperatures) or going to indoor play facilities.
At the start, some children may not know what to do or want to go out. Moms can encourage their children by being physically present with them at the active play facilities. They can go for short periods of time at the start until their child is more comfortable.
Some have resorted to encouraging children by giving rewards such as they can use their gadgets only after 2 hours of active play outdoors.
Mommy Mundo is the Official Mom Community Partner of Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play Event happening on October 14, Saturday at the Filinvest Tent, Alabang. For more details about the Worldwide Day of Play, visit http://www.nick-asia.com/dayofplayph. For ideas on how to stay active throughout the year, tune in to Nickelodeon for starter ideas or share your own ways of making active play happen on Facebook by using the official hashtag #DayofPlayPH.