A day spent with you is my favourite day. So today is my new favourite day. - Winnie the Pooh
This week on our Instagram stories we conducted a survey. 75% of respondents said they spend less than 1 hour outside every day. With so many distractions and tasks vying for our attention, especially inside the house, many of us don’t get outside enough. I understand, it's hard especially in the winter!
I don’t make new years resolutions. My track record has convinced me resolutions are pointless because I never stick to them. However, 2022 is different.
You see, two weeks into the new year I found something my family could achieve when I stumbled upon 1,000 hours outside. It is a movement to encourage people of all ages to spend 1,000 hours outside in a year.
Nope, that's not a typo. The resolution is to spend 1,000 hours outside.
At first glance, it looks like a lot but did you know that studies have shown children can spend as much as 6+ hours a day on technology? When you do the math, that's more than 1,000 hours a year using technology! So, you quickly realise 1,000 hours outside is achievable … one day at a time.
Start them young
The University of Cambridge conducted a study a few years ago, which found that young children are not naturally active, and that parents have an important role to play in the development of healthy habits early on. The report said that mothers set (or don’t) the pace when it comes to the levels of physical activity children have.
This is something that the Duchess of Cambridge - Kate Middleton as she is also known - passionately champions. Her work focusses on the early years of life (0 - 5 years), and how they lay the foundation for future choices. She lives what she preaches by spending as much time as possible outside with her children, and is passionate about raising awareness about the importance of positive physical, emotional and cognitive development during the early years.
They say, the days are long but the years are short, and I can't argue with that. Spending quality time together helps children to feel more secure, confident, builds stronger family bonds and is fantastic for everyone's emotional health.
Photo by Natalia Homolova | @natinstablog
The benefits of being outdoors
It’s good for your body
Spending time outdoors usually requires some physical activity, whether it is walking or running around chasing a ball. Being active helps produce happy hormones, so it is a win-win situation for you and your family. Other potential benefits include:
- a longer life expectancy including maintaining a healthier heart, better eyesight and improved immunity.
- resetting your sleep cycle. Lise Dullaerts touched on this in our sleep blog in December.
- mental health management including stress reduction, an increase in happiness. As well as improved creativity and enhanced memory, which can aid academic performance.
How does being outside help improve your immune system? Sunshine! Our body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight. We need a safe amount - so still wear your SPF - to help support bone development and build a strong immune system. I recently read that Vitamin D deficiency is a global public health issue. Approximately 1 billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency, and 50% of the population have vitamin D insufficiency .
The benefits of being outside are endless.
It’s good for your mind
The last two years have had a huge effect on relationships and studies have shown that people’s mental health is at an all-time low. Stress, anxiety and other mental health issues have spiked. A lot of us have been forced to live and work within the confines of our homes. With everyone constantly home under one roof, chaos can take hold.
There is something about being outdoors away from the chaos at home, work emails and screens which brings calm to our household. When we spend time outdoors (2 - 3 hours on weekends in the winter) there is less fighting, more teamwork and we enjoy each others company.
Connect with nature and unplug
Positive experiences in nature will strengthen a child's love for the outdoors.
The more time we spend outdoors, the more we - and our children - appreciate nature. The birds, animals, trees and plants create curiosity, respect and understanding of the world around us.
Don’t get me wrong, technology has its benefits. I admit that without Cocomelon there are nights I would struggle to make dinner.
However, technology has the power to take over our lives if we let it. Turning off devices and being present is essential to our well being, and their imaginations because it teaches children how to entertain themselves.
A lot of our Instagram followers already have healthy boundaries when it comes to their children’s screen time. Nearly 70% allow their child to have screen time, but of those, 63% only offer 1 hour or less per day.
Problem solving, Imagination & Risk
There are two little words I hate. Can you guess what they are? … “I’m bored!”.
Like nails on a chalkboard, they grate me because I can’t figure out how my children could be bored with a playroom filled with activities. Books, puzzles, playdough, dress ups, Lego … you name it, they have it. Birthdays, Christmas and hand-me-downs have provided a never-ending selection of choices. But, they are still bored.
Being outside provides an opportunity to practise some important life skills like troubleshooting and problem solving. Both are necessary skills in adulthood, and they are skills that children learn as they work things out and entertain themselves.
Exposing children to nature allows their imaginations to run wild. Outside my children run, explore and invent.
A leaf becomes a boat, and they have races to see whose boat will pass under the bridge first. Or a fallen tree becomes a car as they try to outrun the T-Rex that is chasing them.
I have an amazing friend who has a thrill-seeking toddler. He was riding and scooting before most kids can walk. Recently she noticed him trying different moves on his scooter, so she took him to a place where she could help him nurture his desire to try new things … the skate park! He’s not making jumps or on the big ramps (yet). But he’s learning to trust himself and building his confidence as he weaves, jumps and rolls along with one leg in the air.
Though stressful, allowing children to take risks - with us close by - helps them understand what is possible. It exercises the decision making muscle in the brain and teaches children to make good decisions which are essential to development, building self-esteem and confidence.
Collect moments, not things
Name two things you can’t buy? Memories and time.
Last summer we spent a week in the Yorkshire Dales (in England). It is stunning there, and I highly recommend it. In the tourist centre, I saw a postcard with these stone towers called The Nine Standard Riggs and I had a bright idea to go see them.
Photo credit: Authors own image
I found what was described as an easy walk (remember I have a 3-year-old) to get us up to the pillars, and didn’t notice the marshland on the map until we were standing ankle deep in it.
Neither my husband nor I were happy with my planned activity. But I kept saying ‘we’ll look back on this one day and laugh’. And we do! One of our best memories was when one of our children figured out the marsh bushes were bouncy, so we bounced through the marshland like Mario and Luigi collecting coins!
It's the experiences you have that will stay in your minds, long after the adventure has ended.
I know getting outdoors, especially in the winter can feel difficult especially with little ones. But you don’t have to go far … you could just stick to your garden.
So let me inspire you to head out into the garden, or further afield, with some easy activities. Some only require your imagination. You can even take your Toddlekind puzzle playmat or waterproof mat with you!
Paint & Draw outside:
Collect and paint rocks and hide them on your next walk for other people to find.
Paint with leaves, pressing them onto paper.
Encourage your child - join in with them - to draw something they see in nature like the sky, a tree or a bug.
Play outside with water and dirt:
Wash their toys, bikes or wellies outside. All you need is a sponge and bucket of (warm, if it’s winter) water, and make it sudsy for extra fun
We are new to water balloons, and it involves some prep but the joy and excitement this activity brings especially when they hit Mummy or Daddy is priceless! Parents enjoy it too.
Dig for treasure (you can even hide some toys) and make mud pies! You don’t need a dedicated mud kitchen for this, and can even use your beach bucket and shovel. Or even just a stick!
Jump in puddles … and parents join in too. It helps you throw caution to the wind and enjoy the moment.
My kids are obsessed with water, and it is an easy garden activity. You can bring out some cups to collect water from the hose, and even water your plants for you!
Or show them things you use to get up to as a kid. Do you remember jumping over the water spray as your parents moved the hose back and forth?
Go on a nature scavenger hunt:
Take a bag and let your little ones collect things they find along the way. Then you can bring it home, and create nature art. Or ask them to find items starting with certain letters in the alphabet.
Or pick wildflowers, and make an arrangement when you get home.
You can also hunt for bugs! Create a bug hotel, or a fairy house with twigs, grass, rocks and leaves.
Start A Collection with what you find. My boys have started a collection of Victorian pottery which is scattered throughout England.
Take the inside out:
Even in the winter, pop on your outdoor clothes, move your Prettier puzzle playmat outside, and do messier activities outside like playdoh or crafts.
Set up the play tent, and have a tea party (or a picnic lunch) or read a book under a cosy blanket.
Activities that require nothing but imagination:
- Hide And Seek
- Play Tag
- Look For Shapes In The Clouds
- What's the time Mr Wolf?
- Practice Cartwheels
- Follow the leader
 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/ citing: Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012 Apr;3(2):118-26