Supporting your kids’ health can be as easy as sending them outdoors to play. Spending time in nature is an incredible way to build social skills, self-reliance and improve kids’ physical wellbeing. With the return of back-to-school season, and for those of you in northern climates, more time spent indoors with the onset of cold weather, there is no better time than now to support your kids’ health naturally.
Here are our top seven reasons to encourage your kids to spend more time in nature.
1 – Promotes Immune Response
Sun exposure helps with Vitamin D synthesis, accounting for nearly 90% of the body’s production.1 Vitamin D from sun exposure promotes the production of white blood cells in the body, which help support a healthy immune response. Another bonus: Vitamin D plays an important role in the development of strong teeth and bones.
2 – Helps Them Get a Good Night’s Rest
An hour of sunshine a day helps regulate the circadian rhythm, our natural internal “clock” that tells us when to fall asleep and when to wake up. When our circadian rhythm is functioning optimally, we naturally feel tired at around the same time every night when it gets dark, and we wake up refreshed at the same time every morning. Why is this important? That hour of sunshine a day helps promote the production of melatonin, which not only helps kids get a great night’s rest, it supports future health by managing immune function.2
3 – Helps Manage Stress
Kids experience stress like adults do, and with all the changes they’ve endured over recent years, supporting stress management is more important than ever. A recent research study suggests that Shinrin-Yoku, the Japanese practice of forest bathing, spending time connecting with nature will do just that.3 A two-hour session over the course of one day is all that is needed to help manage stress.3
4 – Limiting Screen Time in Favor of Outdoor Time Helps Protect Kids’ Eyesight
Frequent breaks from digital devices are important to maintain kids’ eye health. The average kid spends nearly 7 hours a day using screen-based devices.4 Regular exposure without breaks may result in dry eyes, eye fatigue and contribute to headaches and difficulties concentrating. Additionally, when kids stare at the same distance for an extended period, it can trigger an accommodation spasm, the seizing of the eye’s focusing system, resulting in blurred vision when your child looks away. An accommodation spasm is easily triggered by devices that capture your kids’ attention for hours at a time. Spending time outdoors gives kids that much needed break from devices, while inspiring focused playtime.
5 – Soil Bacteria Supports the Immune System
A developing body benefits from exposure to bacteria found in soil and in nature in general.5 A kid’s body needs to develop to acutely identify viral and bacterial threats and non-threats. This is stunted when kids are sedentary and spend excessive time indoors, especially when they are very young. The antidote to a hyperactive immune system that perceives non-threatening bacteria and viruses as threatening is to let your kids get dirty. Send them outside and encourage them to investigate nature.
6 – Playing Outdoors Encourages a Healthy Weight
Regular physical activity plays a key role in kids’ physical well being.7 The recommended 60 minutes a day of aerobic and anaerobic play helps to build physically strong kids and encourages a healthy weight. Both are foundational maintaining metabolic health.
A bonus: when kids use up all their energy, they (and you) get a good night’s sleep. Sleep encourages muscle recovery, emotional regulation, and balanced hormones.
7 – It Also Helps Kids Socialize and Build Resilience
Outdoor activities encourage kids to spend time with their peers through sports and creative play. Socializing regularly throughout childhood is important in building core social skills such as active listening, effective verbal communication, problem solving skills and empathy. It also provides lessons on teamwork, risk taking and encourages self esteem and emotional resilience. Outdoor play is one of the best ways to develop these core skills.8
Creating healthy habits in kids is an investment in their future selves. If you’d like to have a wellness visit, or work together to develop a healthy plan for your kids, book an appointment with me, and together we can keep our kids healthy and strong.
Call or email us at 832-800-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tara Torres, MS, CLT
1. Wacker M, Holick MF. Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health. Dermatoendocrinol. 2013 Jan 1;5(1):51-108. doi: 10.4161/derm.24494. PMID: 24494042; PMCID: PMC3897598.
2. Norton, A. Time Outdoors May Deliver Better Sleep. 2017 Feb 2. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170202/time-outdoors-may-deliver-better-sleep
3. Furuyashiki A, Tabuchi K, Norikoshi K, Kobayashi T, Oriyama S. A comparative study of the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on working age people with and without depressive tendencies. Environ Health Prev Med. 2019 Jun 22;24(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s12199-019-0800-1. PMID: 31228960; PMCID: PMC6589172.
4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Give Your Child’s Eyes a Screen-Time Break: Here’s Why. 2017 https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/eyes/Pages/What-Too-Much-Screen-Time-Does-to-Your-Childs-Eyes.aspx
5. Roslund MI, Puhakka R, Grönroos M, Nurminen N, Oikarinen S, Gazali AM, Cinek O, Kramná L, Siter N, Vari HK, Soininen L, Parajuli A, Rajaniemi J, Kinnunen T, Laitinen OH, Hyöty H, Sinkkonen A; ADELE research group. Biodiversity intervention enhances immune regulation and health-associated commensal microbiota among daycare children. Sci Adv. 2020 Oct 14;6(42):eaba2578. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aba2578. PMID: 33055153; PMCID: PMC7556828.
6. Andersen L, Corazon SSS, Stigsdotter UKK. Nature Exposure and Its Effects on Immune System Functioning: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb 3;18(4):1416. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041416. PMID: 33546397; PMCID: PMC7913501.
7. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Physical Activity Facts. 2020 https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm
8. Wyver S. The Influence of Outdoor Play on Social and Cognitive Development. In: Tremblay RE, Boivin M, Peters RDeV, eds. Brussoni M, topic ed. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development [online]. https://www.child-encyclopedia.com/outdoor-play/according-experts/influence-outdoor-play-social-and-cognitive-development. Published: May 2019. Accessed July 25, 2022.
Mead MN. Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr;116(4):A160-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.116-a160. Erratum in: Environ Health Perspect. 2008 May;116(5):A197. PMID: 18414615; PMCID: PMC2290997.
Munsamy AJ, Chetty V, Ramlall S. Screen-based behaviour in children is more than meets the eye. S Afr Fam Pract (2004). 2022 Feb 10;64(1):e1-e4. doi: 10.4102/safp.v64i1.5374. PMID: 35144462; PMCID: PMC8905461.