The benefits of getting outdoors with your baby: Part 2
By Karen Clarkson, nature play advocate, mum of two and founder of The Outdoor Kids Project.
The natural world is loaded with endless opportunities for stimulating babies senses and it creates a powerful learning environment that can’t be replicated indoors. Research tells us that an increasing number of parents are keeping babies indoors too often. And while we might be concerned that it’s too cold, they might get sick or it’s too much effort, the good news is that the benefits of outdoor play from an early age has been proven and not only does it provide a calming effect on the baby, but often for mums and dads too.
This is the second of my summer series blogs. In this blog I’ll share how outdoor time can help with tea time troubles and sleep.
Babies traditionally get fussy and irritable from 4pm onwards, in the lead up to dinner. This can be often tricky timing as we are often trying to juggle dinner time prep, tired toddlers, or hungry school kids. I have found two things to really help our family get through dinner time hustle. Early meal-times – we eat at 4.30pm most nights. And getting outdoors. Sometimes we combine the two and take dinner to the beach or park, or set up a picnic on our lawn. Often babies go from fussy to calm in a matter of minutes when distracted with the wonder of trees, the wind and calming noises in nature. The benefits of fresh air and sunlight also helps them to get used to gain confidence outside the womb. As long as they are dressed warmly and you start with small amounts of time to begin with (for both the parents and the child), there is very little reason why you shouldn’t take your baby outside from birth, especially in your own backyard or park close to home. You can always pack up and head home if things get tricky, there’s always tomorrow.
They sleep better:
In 2015, a small Australian study found that reducing screen time and increasing outdoor play can improve children’s sleep.
A study of adults from the University of Groningen found that exposure to light in the daytime contributed to both the quantity and quality of sleep. Scientists think this is because of the way bright light helps establish our circadian rhythms, the internal messaging that tells our bodies when to sleep.
Not only is nature intrinsically a place that babies want to be, there’s also so many benefits to them spending time in nature every day. We are fortunate in New Zealand, not to have an extremely cold or extremely hot environment, however it’s still important to exercise caution especially with young babies. Ensure you stay out of direct sunlight, avoid crowded spaces where people could be ill, ensuring you dress your baby in warm natural layers, wear long sleeves and pants to avoid direct contact with UV rays and ensure you both stay hydrated on hot days are ways to ensure you stay safe outdoors.
Making outdoor time a priority every day for parent and baby, can provide such an incredible benefits to you both and can be a lovely bonding experience.
If you’re interested in joining our community of Kiwi parents, and be inspired and educated on the importance of raising outdoor kids, and gain tips and tricks for getting outdoors every day, please join The Outdoor Kids Project on Instagram.
Karen Clarkson is a passionate nature play advocate, mother of two active boys and founder of The Outdoor Kids Project. As a new mum with a baby that hardly slept at home, she took to the streets, the park, the beach and the bush and experienced first hand the benefits of nature not only for her children, but for her own mental health. She created The Outdoor Kids Project to write, inspire and educate Kiwi parents on all things raising outdoor kids. She shares her daily adventures with her boys around New Zealand and hosts a guest post series called #realoutdoormums where she chats to outdoor mums, educators, teachers and professionals who share their tips, tricks and expert opinions on all things outdoor play, family adventures and nature education. You can join her community here.