Why it’s important to introduce your infant to the great outdoors
It’s common knowledge that the great outdoors are, well, great for our mind and body, but many parents often fret about how soon they can introduce their infants to the outside world. After all, the great outdoors are just as full of sunshine and beautiful greenery as they are of germs, right?
As it turns out, there’s little to fear when it comes to bringing babies outdoors. In fact, infants have much to gain from being outdoors and exploring the outside world, as long as parents stick to safe, well-ventilated areas away from people who are sick. Here are some reasons why the great outdoors are an important place to introduce to your infant.
Building bones and muscles
Lawns on a sunny day are a safe outdoor space for babies to explore. This gives them ample exposure to sunlight, which helps the body produce Vitamin D. This, in turn, helps babies use calcium in breast milk or formula to develop and grow bones, as we explained in a previous post.
For best results, set your baby down on his or her stomach. This not only gives babies the benefit of sunlight and Vitamin D, it also encourages them to push up from their bellies to strengthen their arm muscles. Just don’t forget to bring along some wet wipes and tissue – your child will love squeezing dirt between their fingers!
Boosting cognitive development
Even if your infant may not be speaking coherently yet, there’s plenty of evidence to show that their minds are always hard at work soaking up everything they can. Researcher and author Brenda Cobb argues that during their first few years of life, infants benefit immensely from being outdoors. Not only do they enjoy all the stimuli from grass, ants, bird songs, and the gentle breeze, they also get to learn more about the world around them.
This sense of awe, experienced together with their parents, is critical to babies’ cognitive development. By the time they get older, children will use this knowledge and sense of wonder to learn even more about the outdoors. Garden designer and mother of three Sophy Lennon told Tootsa that children love looking, exploring, collecting, and hypothesizing– skills that can help them immensely later in life. For older children, she recommends playing i-spy or getting them nature-spotting books that can get them interested in plants, insects, and birds.
Stronger immune system
Just like early exposure to allergens, there is evidence to show that early exposure to the great outdoors in all its germy glory has lasting benefits for infants’ immune systems. The International Weekly Journal of Science explains that young children who spend time outdoors are less likely to come down with illnesses, as trace amounts of pathogens can give their little immune systems a good exercise. What’s more, research dating back to the early 20th century suggests that there might also be good bacteria outdoors that can help children fight off infection. That being said, these benefits far outweigh the trouble of having to wash dirty babies after an afternoon out.
Last but not least, the University of North Carolina’s Natural Learning Initiative promotes outdoor time as a way for babies and children to reduce stress. As it turns out, children who have access to lots of greenery and play areas have shown decreased stress levels, which can be crucial once they start going to school and experiencing major changes in their lives. The best part is – the stress-reducing benefits of the great outdoors apply to moms and dads, too!
What are your thoughts on infants and the great outdoors? Let us know in the comments below!
Contributed by: MommyWhiz_RJ