April 27, 2012
Let them play today!
Now that they are on summer break, I often find my kids clicking the day away on their gadgets of choice—there's the Xbox, the iPad, or even the PC that I use for my work. If not doing any of these, they are busy channel surfing (or rather, arguing about what to watch while channel surfing). It warms my heart to see one or two of them reading quietly in a corner, but I also encourage them to just run amuck outside, especially as I type away on articles like these and need my peace and quiet.
In my time, before the advent of computer games (well, technically the Game & Watch and the joystick Atari console were already in existence, so I'm not THAT old) my brothers and I enjoyed playing in our backyard. We would watch marching ants, find lizard eggs hiding in the crevices of the walls, and get into full-blown monggo bean sumpitan wars with the neighborhood kids. These were the times we would reminisce about whenever we get together. These are the kind of bonding moments that I want my boys to share too as they grow up.
No place to play, you say? Head out to a park once in a while, or find open spaces like the Bonifacio High Street where there is still room to romp around in. It would also be good if you join in the fun so you get your daily dose of exercise too!
There are so many benefits to getting them to play and experts have been proclaiming these for years. Here are some of the advantages of getting kids to go outdoors:
Active kids are healthy kids. The physical benefits are almost as boundless as the energy they expend when they are playing outdoors. It helps develop their gross and fine motor skills to get their bodies coordinated. Rigorous playing builds up physical endurance—I have heard many of our local athletes say that they played taguan or agawan base when they were kids. And, experts have found a direct correlation to the rise in early onset of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart problems to the decreased amount of outdoor play during childhood. Playing is a form of exercise that can help with weight control. In local street parlance, it is really "galaw-galaw baka ma-istroke" .
It teaches them to socialize. Playing with friends can help them amp up their street cred, as in "There's that kid with the gazillion marbles". It teaches them how to handle conflicts, to play fair, and to take care of the smaller ones in the group. I have found that my kids have learned to compromise, by finding games that most of the players like instead of always trying to get their own way. The youngest, too, has thankfully learned the concept of taking turns by bouncing a ball around with the neighbor guys.
It offers out-of-the-box learning experiences. A vacant lot near our home harbors a lot of fun plants such as the makahiya, and a weed whose seed pods explode when placed in water. Close encounters with interesting botanicals has made it a lot easier for me to teach them the parts of a plant when lesson time came. They too, have become fascinated by ants, lizards, spiders, and (egad!) worms so when things get quiet as they are out in the cul-de-sac, they are probably trying to get a worm to curl up into a ball, or tricking some black ants into falling out of line.
It serves as an outlet for their energy. As they run around and squeal to their heart's content, they get tired, eat more at mealtime, and fall asleep earlier. 'Nuff said.
REMINDERS FOR OUTDOOR PLAY DATES
Before letting them loose, here are some no-fail tips that are good to keep in mind. They will help to keep playtime safe and fun, and are enough to afford you peace of mind as they scurry about to get down and dirty.
Set rules and limitations. I set boundaries as to where they can go—too near the busy street is a no-no. I also tell my boys that once they step out of line, they have to go inside. This means fighting amongst themselves or with playmates, straying too far from the "safe zone", or pulling precious plants off the roots. This teaches them to comply, and keeps them well out of harm's way at the same time.
Arm them with "weapons". Let them wear comfy clothes for playing in, then put some low-dusting powder (such as Tupperware's Circus Mom and Me) on their backs and sweaty crevices to avoid having to deal with bungang-araw. On hot, sunny days, it is a kid-friendly sunblock (such as Banana Boat's or Nivea's)—in rainy weather, a mosquito repellent in the form of a lotion or a citronella bracelet like Bugs Lock is in order. A good old towel in the back works to absorb sweat too. It would also be a good idea to stock up on things such as ice cubes, wound cleaners and bandages for boo-boos.
Juice them up. Call for a time out, to serve water or juice. This helps to replenish the liquids they are sweating. Avoid serving sugary fizzy drinks as this will make them tire our faster and you might find them dozing off by dinner time.
Have snacks ready. The little buggers are sure to be hungry, so be sure to be ready for a snack attack. This, by the way, is the perfect opportunity to introduce a new food, as more often than not, they will have the hearty appetite to eat anything you put in front of them.
Keep a watchful eye. Even though they are taught to keep to safe limits, you or yaya should still stand guard. Teach them not to talk to strangers, and to be very careful about things such as chasing after a ball in the street. And once they complain of getting tired, or get too soaked with sweat, it is time to pack it up for the day.
Yes, they may get all tired and sweaty, and occasionally drama erupts from an over-stimulated child—but the pumping of happy endorphins through their little tissues, plus the bonding experiences they create with siblings and playmates still beats the hour of plugging away at a console to reach a high score anyday.