The research agrees – time spent in the outdoors offers children a myriad of benefits. Most obvious are the developmental tasks crucial to prepping children for the next stage of their lives – exploring, risk-taking, emotional regulation, fine and gross motor skills plus the absorption of basic knowledge.
But there is also a secondary and much less understood overall benefit. Recently unearthed, is the evidence that spending time in nature provides protections against a surprising range of diseases, including depression, ADHD, cardiovascular disease, cancer and many more.
Ming Kuo, an environment and behaviour researcher with the University of Illinois believes the answer lies in nature’s ability to enhance the function of the body’s immune systemi.
She goes on to note, “Nature doesn’t just have one or two active ingredients. It’s more like a multivitamin that provides us with all sorts of the nutrients we need. That’s how nature can protect us from cardiovascular, respiratory, mental health, and musculoskeletal disease simultaneouslyi.”
So now that we know getting outdoors and experiencing the world is good for our children’s health, how can we use it to prepare them for the challenges of the world?
Physical activities like camping, cycling or even daily plays in the neighbourhood park are challenges that stimulate children, thus promoting cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being. But before allowing them to be exposed to the outside world and to benefit from exposure to sunlight and the open air, children must first have that baseline protection from germs, microbes, viruses and seasonal allergies.
One thing to consider is the effect of probiotics and prebiotic foods and supplements on the immune systems of young children. Occurring naturally in the human digestive system, probiotics are live microorganisms that enhance the health of your child by acting as a digestive aid and boosting their overall immunity. Whereas prebiotics is a compound found in food that promotes the growth of beneficial probiotics.
From a scientific standpoint, probiotics and prebiotics are undeniably linked to intestinal and overall bodily health, considering also that the gastrointestinal tract is where several immune and inflammatory processes begin.
This could possibly lead to a reduction in the severity and incidence of gastroenteritis and diarrhoea in children. In young children, probiotics and prebiotics can also function as an additional barrier against disease and illness by synthesizing essential vitamins, help digest dietary fibre and convert it into cell nutrients and teach the immune system to recognize and attack harmful bacteriaii.
Parents may increase the health of these beneficial bacteria and microorganisms with a healthy diet consisting of grains, fruits and vegetables. It can also be boosted with probiotic and prebiotic supplementation.
Experiencing the World First-hand
Once the ‘immunity’ foundation has been established, being among trees, jungle trails, rivers and waterfalls puts children in a new environment. This is the perfect time for mums and dads to encourage the natural explorer in their children to emerge. Cheer them on to push a little farther, to see what natural wonders are just around the bend in the trail.
Here you can demonstrate Daringness, one of the five pillars of resilience. To be daring is to be brave and have the courage to try something new.
If you think back on your own childhood, it’s easy to recall outdoor play as one of our happiest memories. So, provide your little ones with the autonomy to climb trees, to struggle over a tightly sealed container, to dictate their own playtime. If the best preparation for adulthood is to have a full and enjoyable childhood, then it’s time to get them out and about.
Not to mention, your permission to allow your child to decide which fork in the trail to take, teaches Self Reliance. According to the five core pillars, Self-Reliance means making one’s own decisions while being connected to family.
Through these experiences, children can also encounter problem-solving, creative thinking, and most importantly, gain a deeper knowledge of themselves. Plus, the outdoor environment offers a constantly changing landscape.
A patch of grass that was previously ideal for a spot of soccer, might be too wet and muddy to run around in. Simple swap sports shoes for rubber boots and get to splashing in leftover puddles. This models Adaptability to children, which is the ability to respond quickly to a different environment.
In addition, the outdoors offers a unique stimulus for open-ended play. A broken branch can function as a gun, a boat, even a pen to scratch an impromptu ground mural. This mobilises skills related to divergent thinking, otherwise known as the quality of Resourcefulness. Characterized as the capacity to find quick and clever solutions in challenging environments, Resourceful children do not let circumstances keep them down.
Lastly, experiencing the world can help parents defeat a ‘Fear of Failure’. This is the false impression that children should not be exposed to disappointment, defeat or frustration. In fact, controlled risk gives children the chance to come to terms with the unpredictability of life.
Jump on this moment to broach the subject of Perseverance. This final pillar demonstrates the value of not giving up despite failure. Persistence is the key to overall success and children who instil this important value know how to turn a weakness into a strength.
Parents must guarantee their children get play-time outside. The outdoors simply offers challenges and adventures that the indoors cannot match!
To begin your family’s journey to the outdoor, start with AptaGro™ Step 3 and 4. AptaGro™ formulated milk powder for children is from the number 1 company* in formula milk for children in Europe**, it has over 40 years of pioneering research and contains a patented Prebiotics and Probiotic formula along with other important nutrients to help support your child’s body and learning development.
Furthermore, to continue quoting from researcher Ming Kuo, there is some indication that exposure to the outdoor switches the body into ‘rest and digest’ mode, as opposed to the stressful state of ‘fight or flight’ mode. When children feel safe and blissful, their bodies might very well be devoting resources to long-term investments that lead to good health outcomes like growing and strengthening the immune system. And isn’t that the very definition of win-win?
Learn more about AptaGro™ products here.
i. Ming Kuo (2015, August 25). How Might Contact With Nature Promote Human Health? Promising Mechanisms And A Possible Central Pathway. Retrieved from www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01093/full
ii. Markowiak, P. & Slizewska, K (2017, September 15). Effects Of Probiotics, Prebiotics, And Synbiotics On Human Health. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622781/
*Danone Dumex is part of Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition
**Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition calculation based in part on information reported by Nielsen through its Scan Track, MarketTrack and Retail Index Services for the Children nutrition milk formula for children aged between 12 and 36 months segment (client defined) in the Children nutrition milk formula category (client defined) for the 52-week period December 2017, for the total grocery channel in Belgium, Czech, Estonia, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, and Switzerland. (Copyright © 2017 The Nielsen Company.)