Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How much time outside?

When my twins were  just babies, tucking them into the stroller and getting outside for a walk was for my sanity.  Once they became mobile and could actually enjoy a playground (somewhat), getting outside was for their sanity.  Okay, and mine.  Going for a walk, to a park, or even just spending some time on our balcony or patio, was often just to have a change of scenery and help pass the time.  And I began to suspect that the more time the boys spent outside, the better and longer they napped, and sometimes it had positive effects on their night time sleep as well.  Not to mention that exercise and time outside are also, obviously, good for your kids' health.

My little J revels in the great outdoors...or at least admiring the sky while lounging in the grass.

As a fan of the PBS show "Call the Midwife," I was amused to see lots of scenes in which babies and toddlers were left in their strollers (called prams over in England) outside, alone.  Apparently this was a very common practice in the 1950s.  "Airing out your baby," was highly recommended, as mentioned in this humorous British article on a modern mom trying out '50s parenting practices and in the book "A 1950s Mother" by Sheila Hardy.  Back then they also thought fresh air positively affected sleep and health.  

But let's get back to the present day.  In the January 2014 issue of Parents magazine, there was a little snippet titled "get enough exercise."  Apparently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an hour a day for young kids.  But a new study from Europe suggests (based on risk for heart disease in blood-sugar levels and body mass index) more exercise per day, as follows:

Age 2 - 6:  73 minutes
Age 6 - 9:  85 minutes

Age 2 - 6:  58 minutes
Age 6 - 9:  66 minutes

You'll notice the recommended time for boys is more and the time increases with age.  Unfortunately, it seems that right as children begin spending more time in school (mostly sitting down all day), their need for physical exertion actually increases.  I know this is a lament of many parents and teachers alike, especially as recesses across the country are cut out, for various reasons.  So, without going into the politics of all THAT, I'll just say for now it's up to me to make sure my boys are active enough.

My sons are still toddlers, so we have the time to go to parks and playgrounds.  The Parents article mentioned above doesn't indicate if the exercise needs to be inside our out, but when the weather is either too hot or too cold, I feel that even an indoor play area fits the bill.  That way they may not be getting fresh air, but they're at least getting physical activity.  But having grown up in Wisconsin, I let my kids outside in weather that many Texans might not:

I used to think if we managed half an hour a day outside, we were doing well.  But if today is any indication, the more the better!  Today we spent two hours playing at a park, and this afternoon they slept for almost 3 hours!  (Unheard of in months, now that they're getting older.)  But once my twins start school, recess and PE may not be enough active time for them, so we'll have to make sure they either play outside after school, or sign up for sports!

Even before the boys were 18 months old, we were going to playgrounds regularly.  

Once the boys were older and we moved to a house with a yard, we invested, with help from grandparents, in a play structure and a little plastic pool.  

And now to end my thoughts with a random article on how parents in Finland let their babies sleep outside in sub-zero weather!  (Not that I'm recommending this personally.  But it sure was interesting.)