By Janice Barnett, Infant / Toddler Specialist
Summer is a very exciting and fun time for infants and toddlers to enjoy the outdoors. It is a time for children to engage in active play and explore the natural world.
Research shows that outside play improves young children’s health. For example:
• Young children are more likely to engage in the kinds of physical play that strengthens their heart, lungs, and muscles when they are outside. Vigorous physical activity improves a child’s overall health.
• Spending time outdoors strengthens young children’s immune systems.
• The outdoors is an easy way to get vitamin D through a few minutes of sunshine each day.
• Spending time outdoors positively affects children’s sleeping patterns. According to the Naturopathic Health Foundations, natural sunlight helps regulate and balance sleep-wake cycles.
• Children who play outside are less likely to be nearsighted. Direct exposure to the bright, natural light that comes from being outside may stimulate developing eyes in important ways such as “maintaining the correct distance between the lens and the retina-which keeps vision in focus” as stated by Aamodt and Chang in “Sun is Best Optometrist.”
• Time spent outdoors provides children with a general sense of well-being and peace.
• The American Academy of Microbiology says that there is some evidence that playing in the dirt exposes children to a specific type of bacteria that may reduce anxiety and improve the ability to learn new tasks.
In conclusion, the outdoors offer important health and developmental benefits as well as valuable experiences that are not available indoors. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and have a great summer!!