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It's Better Outside... Seriously!

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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Summer- a time when the lure of sedentary, screen-focused activities seems irresistible to most kids. And, parents frequently acquiesce due to scary media about what lurks outside the door… sun overexposure, itchy plants and bugs, dirt, and more!

But, let’s get real. Of course, we need to take some necessary precautions, like wearing sunscreen and insect repellant and using soap and water when we come in. But we shouldn’t deprive children of the really important benefits of being outside, which totally outweigh the other stuff.

Benefits, eh? Says who? Well, actually, the scientific community, that’s who. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits.

Being outside…


1. Provides air that is cleaner. According to the EPA, the pollutants in indoor air are typically 2 to 5 times higher (and can often be 100 times higher!) than outside air. We always assume outdoor pollution is yucky, but this puts it to shame! I guess Mom’s, “Get out and get some fresh air!” still rings true.


2. Increases attention span. The National Institutes of Health conducted experiments that showed children are able to focus on an activity longer than if it was done indoors.

boy sleep

3. Promotes better sleep. Many children have sleep routine issues because their internal body clocks are out of whack. Circadian rhythm is linked with the cycle of the sun, so if children are spending a good deal of time indoors, they aren’t receiving the changing light cues they need. Sometimes, they may even need a system reset. Researchers have found that the best way to do this is by providing exposure to early morning sunlight. So, get ‘em up and out early!

no stress

4. Tones down stress. Researchers say spending time in green spaces lowers stress levels. They did studies with children experiencing highly distressing life events, whose psychological discomfort was significantly reduced with exposure to natural, outdoor environments. So, just think what a positive effect it can have on a simple tantrum!


5. Supports better vision. About half of young adults in this country are nearsighted, which is nearly double the percentage when their grandparents were the same age. Studies have been conducted with children who spent most of their time indoors and those who played outside at least 40 minutes a day. Apparently, artificial lighting can be a factor in the development of nearsightedness. The brighter, natural light outdoors helps keep the proper distance between the retina and lens, which is crucial for good focus. This would be important to consider, since the eyes of young children are still a work in progress.


6. Delivers Vitamin D. Ah, yes… the sunshine vitamin. Sure, most children are on the gummy vitamin regime and drink milk, but the sun is still the best source. The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds us that Vitamin D is important in the absorption of calcium. So, a deficiency in either can set a child up for future problems, like heart disease, diabetes, and bone issues.

OK. That's the list. Now, power off the screens and open the door!

gravel road

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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 7 and Radley, 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

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Guest Thursday, 18 July 2019