For most parents, outside means mess, grass stains and constantly ensuring dirt, sand (and worse), aren’t mistaken for lunch. However, outdoor playtime can actually make a positive difference to your child’s sleep routine – music to any parent’s ears.
For example, exposure to natural light helps our body produce the calming hormone serotonin, putting us in a relaxed mood for sleep and helping to regulate our little one’s internal body clock. Toddlers are clever – they know that light is for play, and darkness (i.e., their dark bedroom) is for sleep. Their body will eventually start to find its natural pattern to recognise when they are meant to be awake, and when they are meant to be asleep.
Outside play also helps to reduce stress levels and improve your overall mood – have you ever noticed a crying baby is likely to stop their tears when taken outside? Further to this, the endorphins released when exercising outside helps the body produce melatonin, more commonly known as the magic sleep hormone.
We also can’t downplay the fact that when our little one’s are outside, they are able to be more physically active – they jump, run, climb and chase – using their gross motor skills. Just like us, our busy little toddlers need to be active and use up enough energy so that they are actually tired enough to want to sleep, and sleep well at that. Even as adults, if we have been stagnant and less active during the day, we may have trouble settling into a good night’s sleep.
I always recommend daily outdoor time with your child – from a quick trip to the playground to a walk around the block after dinner. I also firmly believe and recommend that in the two hours before bedtime, our children have no access to blue white light omitted from technology such as the TV, iPads, Phones. This kind of light works against their little bodies for sleep, suppressing the production of those helpful sleepy hormones and undoing all of the good work of regular outdoor play