Hello everyone. I’m Donna an Early Years Practitioner and Henry Facilitator at our Children and Family Centres in Lewisham.
Hope you are all keeping well. As the weather warms up let’s talk a little about why we should encourage our children to get outdoors and have fun and how to help them stay safe in the natural environment.
The great outdoors gives children plenty to explore and as restrictions ease we can all look forward to spending more time outside. The outdoor environment is ever changing and offers a stimulating multi – sensory experience for babies and children to explore and discover. They’ll embrace the freedom and space the outdoors gives them to shout, jump, run around, hop, skip and play.
Young children love the chance to explore different spaces and touch natural objects like leaves, pinecones, grass, sand and not forgetting the potential of a puddle and the enjoyment children get from them. The fun of making a sail boat from a stick and leaf to sail on the puddle, or just splashing about in it.
There are many health benefits to being outdoors for all the family. The natural environment encourages a healthy lifestyle, through physical activity and challenges, being outdoors helps children sleep, eat, and live more healthily. This encourages them to form healthy habits for life.
Your eyes provide another reason why being outdoors is important. Studies have found that children who spend time playing outside are at a reduced risk of developing Myopia – near sightedness. Studies found that a child’s chances of developing Myopia dropped by two percent for each additional hour spent outdoors per week.
Increases attention span
Studies have shown that green outdoor settings appear to reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children, which includes the exposure they get to natural places like parks, beaches and forests. Overall, it’s becoming increasingly more apparent that outdoor activities may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children.
Increases Vitamin D levels
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on our skin. This is another reason to get children outdoors and let them get some natural Vitamin D on their skin. But it’s important to keep your child’s skin safe in the sun. Most people can make enough vitamin D from being out in the sun daily for short periods with their forearms, hands or lower legs uncovered and without sunscreen from late March or early April to the end of September, especially from 11am to 3pm. To ensure they get enough vitamin D, all children under 5 are advised to take vitamin D supplements
Children and sun protection advice from the NHS
Children shouldn’t be out in the sun too long in hot weather. Take extra care to protect babies and children. Their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.
Children aged under 6 months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight.
From March to October in the UK, children should:
- cover up with suitable clothing
- spend time in the shade, particularly from 11am to 3pm
- wear at least SPF30 sunscreen
Apply sunscreen to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, feet and backs of hands.
While we want our children to have fun outdoors and in the sun, there are some safety risks that increase during the bright Spring and Summer months. To help ensure that your child stays safe during the summertime, there are some precautions that you can take. Here’s five tips to help keep your child safe during the summer.
Keep Hydrated – Water is critical for keeping your child safe on hot summer days. Staying hydrated has many benefits including heat stroke prevention. During playtime, have children take a water/drink break about every 20 minutes. Toddlers and preschool-aged children should aim to consume about five cups of water a day, while older school-aged children should be consuming about eight cups.
Be safe around water – Most children love water play, whether it be in the sea, paddling pool, swimming baths or a bucket. As parents we want to allow our children the freedom to splash about and have fun, but a tragedy can strike in just seconds, so it’s important that your child doesn’t go unsupervised for any period of time while they are around water. There are lots of water safety aids you can buy for children that will help to keep them safe in and around water. Such as armbands, water rings, life jackets and swim vests.
Road Safety – very young children need constant supervision when crossing the road, emphasize that they should never set foot off the curb without an adult. Practice crossing the road with your children. Teaching them the Green Cross Code, “Stop, Look, and Listen”. Lead by example. You can also read a book on road safety with your child. There are safety harness reins and wrist link safety straps that you can buy to help keep your child safe when out and about, to stop them running off or into the road.
Play equipment – Children love using outdoor play equipment like swings, slides, climbing frames. Before allowing your child to play on them, just have a quick check to ensure they are safe. No loose parts, broken or sticking out bits that can cause injuries or rip clothing. Make sure the equipment is protected with safety mats or protective flooring. Always supervise your child when using the equipment.
Proper Footwear and clothing – It’s important to think about footwear when your children are playing outdoors. If your child is going for an adventure in the woods its best to ensure they wear closed in shoes to protect their toes and feet whilst running, climbing and exploring. To protect them from stings, bites and scratches it’s best to ensure that their legs and arms are covered. In hot weather it is important to ensure that your child’s head is covered to protect them from the sun.
Why not visit a park you haven’t explored before? Each park offers something different for your child to see, hear, explore and experience. Some have ancient woodland habitats such as Forster Memorial Park or Beckenham Place Park. Others have water habitats and rivers like Cornmill Gardens and River Mill Park and Ladywell Fields whilst others are nature reserves such as Brookmill Park or Grove Park Nature Reserve. There’s so much to explore here in Lewisham we hope you and your family have fun experiencing it.
Whatever you chose to do in the great outdoors have fun and keep safe