Summertime, and the living is easy. With the good, warm weather, it’s also easy to remember to take your kids outside. But when the cold north wind starts to blow, we forget how important it is to get outdoors. Here are 4 great reasons to keep taking your kids outside, come rain or shine.
1. Get the kids some vitamin D
Exposure to direct sunlight is the best way for the body to produce this happy-making vitamin. However, if your kids have very pale skin, you’ve got to balance the benefits and the dangers of exposure to direct sunlight.
The Vitamin D council recommends short periods (15 minutes) of exposure in the mid-morning during high summer for pastier kids, and longer periods for kids with darker skin. After that, cover up with clothing, stay in the shade, and/or apply sunscreen.
In winter time, when it’s harder for everyone to absorb vitamin D, it’s even more important that kids spend time outdoors (as well as taking a vitamin D supplement). Why do you think people in Iceland stick their bundled up babies outside to nap? So their little faces can absorb some all-important rays.
2. Burn off energy with some exercise
Having an 18-month-old can feel like sharing a house with the Energizer bunny. They just keep going, and going, and going…
If you ever find yourself stuck in a spiral of hyperactive kids bouncing off the walls preventing you from getting things done, then it’s time to throw them outside.
For younger kids, just being outside and taking it all in will help expend excess energy, even if they don’t do much running around. My little guy loves to lie in the big basket swing in our local playground, but he’s always heavy-lidded and ready to sleep at night, even after spending all afternoon lying back gazing at the sky.
3. Watch them discover EVERYTHING
It takes about 15 minutes to walk from my town’s train station to our house. The other day, it took us an hour and a half.
That’s because the Bug was saying, “Down? Down? Down?” as we got off the train from Munich, and when we approached a safe walking area, I complied.
He stopped at every. Single. Puddle. Every single twig, leaf, or slug. It was pouring rain, but we were both well-equipped with rain coats and pants, and crocs. Since I was in no particular hurry to get anywhere, I just let him be.
Gently encouraging him to move forward from time to time, we spent the next 1.5 hours throwing pebbles down drains, splashing in puddles, poking at snails and slugs, and generally absorbing all there was to discover.
It was amazing to see him wonder at it all, and though I was desperate for a cup of tea by the time we got home, I wouldn’t have hurried him for the world.
4. Take a little time for yourself
As your kids get older and are better able to play on their own, you’ll find that outdoor time becomes you time. Yes, you have to be observant and constantly aware of where your kids are, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow them around the playground.
We are lucky to have playgrounds every few feet here in Germany, and many of them are fenced in, and very toddler-friendly. We have found one where no matter where I sit, I can see the Bug. He’s now big enough to run from game to game on his own, and I can sit and knit, while keeping watch out of the corner of my eye.
Being outside with other people takes the pressure off me. While at home I am constantly in demand for entertainment, the great outdoors provides enough to keep him engaged.
It’s also a nice opportunity to meet other parents. I have found this to be especially true when coming to a new place. When kids play together, parents get talking. It’s been a wonderful way to make new friends.
Get the right gear and get going
Germans say that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. While a hailstorm is definitely best avoided, rainy, snowy and gloomy days need not be spent indoors.
For your kids’ sake, and for your sanity, get the right outdoor gear you need, and try and get outside every single day. You’ll all feel better for it.