Playing Outdoors: The Impact of Nature on Your Child’s Health

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Playing outdoors impacts our kids in ways we never imagined!

 

“What impact does nature have on your child’s health?”

 

a toddler putting a puzzle together on a table outdoors, enjoying nature

 

Everything! Research shows it’s optimal for children to get 14+ hours a week of outside time.  

 

The big questions to answer are: Why & How to Support Your Child this Summer to Get Outside Time?

 

Why is it so important you support your child to get plenty of outdoor time?

 

Outdoor fresh air is beneficial in so many ways for your child, even beyond their physical health. Playing outdoors allows your child to understand their bodies better, engage in imaginative play, and create opportunities for socializing. In today’s fast-paced and busy world, it can be difficult to create those spaces for your child to get this outdoor time. Today you will learn five concrete benefits the outdoors has for your child and five ways you can support your child’s overall healthy growth and development by being outside. 

 

a toddler girl playing outdoors

 

Five Major Benefits Nature Has on your Child’s Health

 

  1. Your child will have stronger and healthier eye development. A professor at Ohio State University reported that children who are “genetically predisposed to myopia are three times less likely to need glasses if they spend more than 14 hours a week outdoors.” Keep in mind your child’s eyes are still developing between the ages of 5-9 years old. It’s important to know that scientists believe that natural sunlight preserves your child’s eye shape and length during this growth period.
  2. Your child will have a healthier sleep rhythm! The outdoors provides your child the opportunity to naturally exercise in a fun way while also getting plenty of sunlight and vitamin D. New research is also saying that the bright sunlight enhances your child’s ability to learn better because the light fosters the formation of new synapses in their brain. 
  3. Your child will have healthier sensory skills. Preschoolers learn through their five senses. Nature allows your child to experience all these senses, which will support the development of their perceptual abilities. Your child will have the opportunity to build a stronger attention span! Playing outdoors encourages your child to be the curious, self-led little leader they were made to be and the ability to focus on one task longer. When your child is outside, the open space allows your child to build their own initiation and follow-through skills! 
  4. Studies show that one reason Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is at an all-time high is that children are not getting enough outdoor time. What if your child is already diagnosed with ADHD? Research is showing children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have a significant amount of time outside. 
  5. Your child’s stress levels will be reduced, and it can elevate their moods. Scientifically why is this the case? Man-made environments typically utilize colors not found in nature. These stronger colors can have an alarming effect on our brains. The colors inside cause a heightened state of alertness. This can cause some children to have high arousal levels.

 

three little kids sitting on a bench outside in front of a climbing structure

 

Now, Mama, you might be wondering, how can I possibly support my child to get 14+ hours a week of outdoor time, especially this summer?

 

  • Take your child outside in chunks of time, broken up throughout the day. Snacks and eating meals are wonderful opportunities to get lengths of time outside.
  • Optimize mornings and evenings by being outside; those are the coolest parts of the day! Know that the hottest parts of the day are between 11 am-2 pm. 
  • Invest in a pop-up tent or sail shade options to give your children shade. Shade reduces the temperature by 10-15 degrees. Also, investing in more plants in your backyard reduces the temperature by 10 degrees. 
  • Dress for the weather! Have your children wear breathable cotton clothing, footwear, and hats. To keep bugs away, I recommend Buzz Patch Mosquito Repellent stickers and planting Lavender, Rosemary, Citronella Grass, and Basil.
  • Teach your children to drink lots of water. Hydration is key to  maintaining homeostasis.

 

I can also hear the reasons some think that amount of time outside can’t happen:

 

“My child is already enrolled in summer school/daycare; our schedule is set.”

“I don’t have time to be outside working a full-time job.”

 

To each reason:

 

-Could you possibly switch to a more nature-based school? And if that isn’t an option, can you support your child playing outdoors when they are home?

-I completely hear you about the demands of a full-time job. My question for you … is it possible for evenings and weekends to include more outside time? You doing chores like folding laundry outside? You bringing your laptop outside to do work? If you can’t bring your work outside, can you hire a high schooler to watch your kids while outside for a couple of hours?

What is ONE tip that works for you in supporting your child to get outside time? Let’s create a thread of FUN informational ideas for us mamas to refer to later.

If you found this post helpful, share to inspire another mom this summer!

 

April Robert is a fellow mom of two kids and owns a Pre-Kindergarten In-Home School, Little Leaders Academy: Montessori, Nature-Based, and Reggio Emilia Inspired located near Grants Farm!  

April also coaches other preschool moms on how to educate their little leader through a mind-body system!

April stays active by running and practicing yoga. She is an avid lover of coffee at The Annex. 

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