Ditch the screen: five fun outdoor learning games to play with your child

With children’s screen time higher than ever before, taking a break in nature can work wonders for your child’s well-being.

There is no better place to be in winter than the UAE. Runners and cyclists are enjoying the return to race season and Dubai residents and schoolchildren are increasing their fitness with the 30 x 30 challenge. But did you know that your child does not need to work up a sweat to soak up the benefits of the great outdoors?

With children’s on-screen time higher than ever before, taking a break in nature can work wonders for your child’s well-being.

Not only does time spent outdoors reduce stress and anxiety, it can also improve self-esteem, confidence and increase focus at school. Here are some outdoor learning activities that you can share with your child at home.

Activity One – measure a tree

What to do Have you ever measured a tree by looking through your legs? Stand with your back to the tree, about as far from the tree as you estimate the tree's height to be. Look backwards, through your legs. You are trying to just see the top of the tree. You will need to move towards or away from the tree until you are just able to see the tree top. The distance you are from the centre of the trunk is the tree's height.

What your child will learn This is a great way for your child to develop their estimating and measuring skills and have some fun in the process.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , October 12 – 2020 :- Claire Heylin teacher in the primary section at the Deira International School in Dubai Festival City in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online. Story by Chris Maxwell.

Activity Two – hiking

Where to go We are extremely fortunate to have many child-friendly hikes in the UAE. Wadi Showkha and Fossil Rock both have easy-to-follow trails that are suitable for all the family. Nature offers plenty of discoveries for children. Encourage children to discuss and compare the various types of plants, rocks and landscapes they see along the way.

What your child will learn Hiking encourages observation skills, fine-motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination. Children will also learn to be risk takers and show resilience when faced with challenges.

Activity Three – beach habitats

What to do Next time you hit the beach, why not look a little closer at what's in the sand and the sea? Encourage your child to look for birds, mammals, minibeasts and fish who call the beach home.

What your child will learn Your child will be developing their scientific observation skills as they investigate beach habitats and develop a natural curiosity about the world around them.

outdoor activities. Courtesy Claire Heylin

Activity Four – hit the playground

What to do It may seem that the playground is merely a place to have fun, but it can teach children key developmental skills.

What your child will learn Playing on swings, climbing up a slide and mounting equipment all contribute to the physical development of children. When children engage in activities that build and develop gross motor skills they are building upper body, lower body and core strength. It can also increase heart rate and improve cardiovascular health, agility, balance and hand-eye co-ordination.

Activity Five – grow your own

What to do Whether it is indoors, a space on your balcony or in your back garden, you can find the perfect plant or food to grow with your child.

What your child will learn Gardening is connected with physical, psychological and developmental benefits for children. Planting seeds, scooping soil and watering plants aid the development of motor skills that can in turn improve concentration and focus. Children learn responsibility as they care for what they have grown.

The more time children spend outside, the more creative they become as they find themselves inventing games and exploring the world around them. Being in nature improves overall health and will give your child memories that cannot be created in front of a screen. It is time to take advantage of the wonderful country we call home and explore the many adventures waiting on our doorstep.

Claire Heylin is primary English lead teacher at Deira International School in Dubai