With our busy lives and packed schedules, modern families don’t spend as much time in nature as previous generations. Nature is known to have profound positive effects on wellbeing and is a vital component of healthy development in children. While we’re all guilty of using digital nannies when we are extremely busy or tired, here’s a reminder of the reasons it’s important to spend time outside with your little ones.
Improved physical development
Playing outside improves your child’s overall physical development including hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. It’s also a helpful preventative of childhood obesity because they have more space to exercise. Luckily there are plenty of ways to have fun with your child outside, even if you or your child don’t have much affinity for sports. If you have a garden, you can plant seeds and nurture them or even create a nature trail. If you’re lucky enough to be close to the countryside, visit the woods or parks as often as you can to go for a walk or ride your bikes! Even if you’re living in the city, there are plenty of parks and playgrounds for children where they can run around and jump in puddles. A relaxing trip to the seaside can also be a great way to explore a new environment and enjoy the fresh air.
Positive effects on mental health
Too much screen time can hugely affect our sleep patterns and mood, so it’s no surprise that it affects little ones too. Overdosing on phones, TVs and tablets can have negative effects on children’s emotions as well as their social, behavioural and cognitive development. For example, evidence suggests that excess screen time can be linked to anxiety, speech delays and other mental health concerns. The more we spend time outside with our children, the more we can help to avoid these issues. Nature stimulates the senses far more effectively than a TV or phone ever could – being able to see, hear, touch, taste and smell the environment can have a massive positive impact on a child’s mental health.
Nurturing creativity and imagination
Running around outside gives children the freedom to take a more inventive approach to play. This in turn encourages them to think more freely and creatively, for example by making up games which are less structured than indoor activities, where physical space is limited. Encouraging them to go outside nurtures their developing minds, which in turn improves their confidence.
Create a sense of calm
Taking a walk can significantly help to reduce stress and improve mood for both you and your child. So the next time you’re in the middle of a toddler meltdown, step outside. If the sun is shining, you’ll also reap the much-needed benefits of vitamin D, which many of us are deficient in. Don’t forget sunscreen for both you and your little one to protect from any harsh rays!
For more inspiration, take a look at my book, Babyopathy – Baby Care the Natural Way. Continuously refined from my work in children’s nurseries, it teaches a sensory based baby-led development programme with its basis in the biophilia hypothesis (our in-built connection to nature).
My many years of experience in the field led me to earn a spot on the Top 10 Most Influential in Childcare in 2017. My aim is to nurture little ones’ complete wellbeing and natural development through sensory and holistic activities.