Baby sleeping with a Baby Tennis Racket

During lockdown is it ok for babies and toddlers to play outside?

20th May 2020 nickfarnsworth

Parents used to fret about the screen, now we worry our kids are playing outdoors. The world has been turned upside down and gone mad, crazy times indeed.

We used to worry about whether our kids were developing friendships. Now we try to keep our kids away from their friends! We think our kids are clever, but what does social distancing really mean to a child?

And when we think lockdown is tough for kids, it is impossible for parents. I have met no-one who says this is a breeze (although I am envious of the family who got locked down in a holiday house on the beach and who have spent the lockdown crab fishing… ). Now many parents are juggling the day job with homeschooling, teaching the kids to read and write, teaching them to tell the time when the only question that we are thinking of is, how long till bedtime and they can open up a bottle of wine?

My kids are now 6 and 8 – both energetic and they both find this tough but I keep reminding myself what it must be like to be a parent with a toddler… or a parent with a toddler living with a high rise flat with no garden. When parents do go to the park, what is going through a parents mind when their toddler goes off exploring – they have no boundaries, they have no idea of social distancing and they stick everything in their mouth!

I’ve seen parents measure out with a ruler what 2m looks like and I have seen the fear of other people’s children towards mine, because they know we have all had the virus (tested), and they wonder whether we are all still contagious? Are we raising a generation of kids worried about interaction with other kids and with lifelong OCD habits?

I worry that the current restrictions will impact our children’s well being. This isn’t something that might happen, I think it already is. Is it now ok to compromise our children’s well being for the sake of the nation; that’s effectively what we have to choose between? For this reason, I encourage my kids to play outside as much as possible – less screen time, more time outside.

There are multiple studies that confirm the psychological well being of children is improved by playing outdoors so we welcome the opportunity to play outside again. During these times we strongly encourage parents to play outside as much as possible. We support Action for Children, and their research into the improvement of children’s wellbeing by playing outdoors. Before the pandemic Action for Children endorse the link between outdoor activities with the psychological and emotional wellbeing of children.

I admit that we have used the screen more frequently, but there are lots of reasons why I think playing outdoors is the best for kids of all ages.

1 First of all, and I appreciate this is not scientific, but freedom, fresh air, running free is what “being a kid” is all about!

2. Playing outside is good for the mood of your kids. Outdoors children are exposed to natural sunlight, which stimulates the production of vitamin D.

3. Playing outdoors reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, in the brain.

4. Discover nature and how the world works by themselves – “more bug collecting please (just don’t bring them into the house!)”. Children should learn not to be frightened of a bit of mud or a scratch on the knee when they fall over.

5. Even playing at a distance of 2m, children need to interact which is safest outdoors. There is no online substitution for the contact that children have between one another and it is much better than Zoom.

6. Regular exercise is an essential, part of staying fit and healthy. It is our conviction that children need to get outside and shake their little bodies on a regular basis to stay fit.

“We are concerned that too many children have become addicted to screens before they even start pre-school.”

7. Exercise strengthens toddlers muscles, improves their balance and improves their fine motor skills.

8. Kids need regular exercise during the day to help them sleep better at night so that mum and dad can stay up to binge-watch Normal People or The Last Dance (FYI – great for anyone who is missing their sport) on catch-up TV!

9. We encourage parents to lead by example. If mum and dad are healthy, there is a greater chance the kids will want to grow up fit and healthy too.

So get yourself up and go play outdoors! I know we are all frustrated but there are many positives at the moment. I have never seen so many people exercising. Streets are quieter, you can skateboard and skate on some of the quieter roads (supervised off course), there are lots of spaces to kick a ball around and if it is not too crowded, we can now go to the local park to play.

Be positive, find the balance for your family and stay alert!