Nature is thought to have a profound effect on our mental and physical wellbeing and is vital for children’s development. But our busy modern lives mean that many of us are more cut off from it than ever before. Whilst we’re all guilty of making use of the digital nanny when we’re busy or tired, here are reasons why it’s important to make some time to step outside…
Nurturing their mental health
We all know that there is such a thing as too much screen time. Overdosing on phones, tablets and TV (Netflix, we’re looking at you!) can have a huge affect on our sleep patterns and our moods. So it’s not surprising that it can be detrimental for little ones’ cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioural development.
But the really good news is that the more time we spend with children outside in nature (and away from screens) the more we can help to avoid speech delays, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.
Little ones might say they prefer to sit on the sofa watching Peppa Pig than go outside, but nature stimulates more senses than the TV. You can see, hear, touch, and smell outdoor environments, which makes a huge impact on positive mental health.
Strengthening physical development
Another great reason to get outdoors is that it can encourage gross motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and help to prevent childhood obesity.
There’s lots of ways to have fun together outside (even if you don’t have a sporty bone in your body!). If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, try planting seeds or creating a nature trail. If you’re close to the countryside, go for a walk in the woods, or ride bikes. If you live in the city, find your local park or playground. Let them know they can run around, jump in puddles and get as messy as they like.
Encouraging creativity and imagination
The freedom that kids can get from running around outside allows them to take a more inventive approach to play and to think more freely. Designing their own activities and making up games that are much less structured than indoor activities is also really good for boosting their confidence.
Creating some calm
If you’re house-bound with an unsettled baby, or in the middle of a dreaded toddler melt-down, just a 10-minute walk outside can help to reduce stress and improve everyone’s mood.
If the sun is shining, you get the added benefit of getting some much needed vitamin D, as many of us are deficient in this essential vitamin. Just make sure the little ones are protected from any harsh rays.
For more inspiration, Angela Spencer’s book, Babyopathy, makes for some interesting and informative reading. Continuously refined from the work she has done in her 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).
With many years of experience behind her in this field (she was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential in Childcare in 2017), Spencer’s aim is to nurture little ones’ complete wellbeing and natural development through sensory and holistic activities.