Expert Opinion

Benefits of outdoor play for sleep

Toddlers are busy little creatures. They love exploring, are constantly eager to discover new environments and try new things – especially outside! 

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

About the author

Lisa is the founder of Cherish Your Sleep, Co-Regional Director (Australia/Pacific) of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, an experienced certified baby/child sleep consultant and a mother to 3 young children.
She has always loved children and has worked in the industry for over 20 years as a qualified child care worker, working primarily with children aged 0 – 3yrs.
A successful outcome is not only good for the parents and children, but also giver Lisa a sense of satisfaction and happiness – there’s nothing better than hearing from a parent who finally got their first full night sleep since having a child.
Becoming a mum and meeting and seeing other mums struggle with their babies and children’s sleep made Lisa really want to reach out and help. She doesn’t see that there is a one size fits all to helping families – sleep is almost like a Puzzle – you need all the pieces in place to achieve the full picture and those pieces are what she shares with families.
Lisa uses a holistic approach to sleep, focusing on emotional wellbeing of families and ensuring the parent child connection in not only maintained, but enhanced. She knows how easy it is to become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s her passion to help find solutions that will work for you, your baby and the rest of your family.
Photo by Allan Mas from Pexels