Infants and the Outdoors – Why Outdoor Play Is Essential

Today’s world is packed full of electronic media from televisions and MP3s to video games and portable DVD devices. There are several companies that tout the educational and developmental value of such devices but do these devices do more harm than good?


There have been a multitude of studies conducted by reputable institutions that have demonstrated the harm electronic media has on children and adolescents. For example, in the sobering and comprehensive review Media and Child and Adolescent Health the National Institutes of Health, Yale University School of Medicine, and California Pacific Medical Center found strong correlation between greater media exposure and long-term negative effects on the health of children in teens. The outcomes range from increases in childhood obesity (no surprise there) and early sexual behavior to substance use and low academic achievement. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that children under the age of two see NO television at all. Why? Early exposure to television viewing is associated with attention problems in adolescence and slower development. Especially for children under the age of two, direct interaction with parents and caregivers is essential for social, emotional and cognitive skill development.

Most parents, at one time or another, have set their children in front of the television to make it easy to finish a load of laundry or clean the dishes in the sink. Does this make you a bad parent? No, of course you are not a bad parent. But there are a great number of alternatives to watching television. Get outside! Outdoor activities are essential for children. According to child psychologist and BBC child psychologist Dr. Tessa Livingstone, “Children who are allowed to play and explore outside are likely to be more adventurous, self-motivated and better able to understand risk when they grow up.” She also discovered “the more children play outside away from TV and computers, the more they laugh.” Astonishingly, she found the children who played most laughed up to 20 times as much as the children who played less.

Need some outdoor infant activity ideas? Here are just a few:

  1. Swing Set – As you may know, many local playgrounds have infant swing sets. In addition to having fun, your child will get the essential vestibular movement needed to help children achieve normal developmental milestones.
  2. Water and Sand Tables – Infants love to explore different tactile sensations. A water and/or sand table provides them with tactile stimulation they will love.
  3. Go for a Walk – Walking with your baby outside gives them a great deal of sensory input. They can see the trees, leaves, other people, smell the grass or flowers, touch the rough surface of tree bark, and hear the birds chirping or wind blowing.

Whatever you choose to do with your baby, know that outdoor activities should be a part of your daily routine. Remember to talk with your child while you are engaging in these activities. Tell them what you are doing and help them with their exploration. You will begin to see the benefits for both you and your child.

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