Spending time outdoors is beneficial for everyone. We hear this more and more, but what are the scientific facts behind this statement? I’ve broken up the topic into 3 sections, so you’ll see how outdoor activities positively impact our babies, toddlers and ourselves by encouraging healthy development and critical thinking skills and more.
Outdoor time for babies
In Scandinavian countries, babies get at least 2 hours of outdoor time. Nordic babies are exposed to sleeping in the stroller even when the weather is not perfect (perfect = negative temperature). The Nordic perspective on this is that one sleeps better while in the cold. Sleep consultants agree that when indoors we should have our babies sleep in 68 F – 70 F / 20 C -21 C (which might be considered cold for adults), but they won’t adhere to the idea of letting a baby sleep in the stroller. Motion sleep is compared to junk food and even called “junk sleep”.
I personally think that sleep should be protected as much as possible and it should happen mostly in the bed. However, it’s OK for your baby to have a cat nap in the stroller, so the baby will have a quick recharge and get some natural vitamin D every now and then.
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Taking Your Baby Out for the First Time
Getting outdoors with babies can be overwhelming for first time parents. On top of worrying about all the possible scenarios when your baby might fuss or even constantly cry, you’ll also concern yourself about forgetting to bring with you all the “crucial” baby stuff.
Once you’ve repeated the outdoor activities a number of times, it will become the norm. Make sure you pack once and “refresh the stock” weekly:
- one full outfit change (for explosive poo – this will end up around 6 months of age, or when your baby will start solids);
- 3-4 diapers, disposable bags, cream, wet tissues, dry tissues;
- a travel baby changing pad;
- a blanket;
- formula ( if necessary);
- after solids are introduced, also get water and a baby food refillable pouch.
Outdoor time for toddlers
We acknowledge more and more the importance of outdoor time, but we spend less time playing outside. An UK study concluded that children spend half the time playing outside in comparison to their parents.
Harvard experts researched 6 reasons why children need to play outside:
- Executive function; These are the skills that help us plan, prioritize, troubleshoot, negotiate, and multitask;
- Taking risks
- Appreciation of nature
I recently read an Irish article related to The Benefits of Outdoor Play and I really liked how it’s emphasized that children need to learn how to take calculated risk and that parents shouldn’t set too many limits to children’s adventurous play. They need substantial amount of time outside to boost their creativity, self-confidence, social skills and ability to concentrate.
Going outside with toddlers is not too complicated. You just need a bottle of water, napkins, disinfectant, a healthy snack, a small toy and a bit of cooperation. At this age, they might be difficult to convince to get out and then even more difficult to get them back home.
Outdoor time for adults
Adults also benefit from spending time outdoors. There is a study showing that it takes as little as 2 hours per week spent outdoors for a healthier and happier life. It gives us the chance to absorb some natural vitamin D by walking in the sun for 15-20 minutes a day (maybe a bit longer during the winter time).
I also stumbled upon a study on the relations between sleep, time of physical activity, and time outdoors among adult women. It’s quite interesting how they concluded that the morning time spend outdoors is a stronger predictor of sleep efficiency (as opposed to evening).
Therefore, we should get into the habit of spending at least 15 min daily (in the morning) outdoors. This will improve our health and sleep!
This is a personal blog. My opinion on what I share with you is that “All models are wrong, but some are useful”. Improve the accuracy of any model I present and make it useful!