30 Minutes a Day Fresh Air Rule

The Bear and MJ sledding

I can’t take credit for this one. My mother was given this parenting advice when I was a kid and she took it to heart – no matter what the weather: send the kids outside for at least 30 minutes every day. Faithfully, my mother kicked my sister and me outside.

As a child, I walked to/from school each day. And on most evenings and weekends, we spent time hanging out with the neighbourhood kids – biking, paddling in mud, or tunnelling in the snow. There were some brutally cold days when my mother still insisted on bundling us up and sending us out into thigh-high snow. But you know, we always managed to find a way to spend the time. We built snow forts, went sledding, or jumped from the roof into the large drifts.

Today, I still feel this pull to be outside at least once a day. Not just for the Bear and Banana, but for me too. I sleep better and feel better if I’ve had a walk or shoveled snow. I’m also surprised at how easy it can be to stay inside all day.

As the Bear gets older, I’ve started implementing the 30 minutes of fresh air a day rule. Generally, we walk to and from her playschool. Even during the days when it is -30, I bundle up both the Bear and Banana and haul them to playschool. When it isn’t a playschool day, we always go outside some time during the day.

For me, and likely not everyone will agree with this, part of slow parenting is toughening up the kids. It’s about setting the expectation that you CAN survive a four-block walk in frigid temperatures. It’s about giving kids an opportunity to fall on the ice, plough through deep snow or get a mitten stuck under a sled. How else will kids learn how to layer their mittens, pull their scarf over their nose, or figure out the best tactics for keeping snow out of their boots? With our current car culture, it is so easy for kids to become fearful of the outdoors if the weather isn’t perfect. Instead, I want children to look at the environment as something to live with and embrace.

Check out this video of an outdoor preschool program in Norway! Maybe the 30 minutes a day rule should be expanded to several hours!

2 Responses to “30 Minutes a Day Fresh Air Rule”

  1. 1 Mama Tortoise January 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks for your story, Roma! I imagine that the challenges we have with the weather are just the same for you, only in reverse. I try to go outside in the winter when the sun is high in the sky – early afternoon. I’m guessing that it might be easier for you to take after dinner strolls when the sun is starting to set.

    We took the Bear and Banana outside today for their ‘run’ (aren’t kids so much like dogs?). Unfortunately, the day was super cold and little Banana’s feet were frozen. So while you and Charlotte suffer through her first sun burn, I think we might be looking at our first frost bite!

  2. 2 roma January 25, 2011 at 11:14 am

    A great reminder, Laura!

    I have been a bit guilty of neglecting the need for this and both my kids (one is only three weeks old and already displays this!) LOVE the outdoors. Whilst we don’t have snow or freezing temperatures, I have a paranoia about the Australian sun (mainly due to my fair skin) so I tend to try and keep out of it and that means being cooped up indoors at times, except in the winter when it is raining and ‘cold’. Whilst it is important to be aware of the dangers of the sun, the fear factor in this country around skin cancer has actually resulted with many kids (and adults) experiencing Vit D deficiencies. With the strong encouragement of my husband, I now make a concscious effort to get out – even on the hot days – in the late afternoon (where the next challenge of avoiding mosquitos arises!) or early morning and I tell you, when this happens, my kids and I do sleep a lot better and are a lot happier. In fact, although Charlotte got her first minor sunburn yesterday which stressed me out completely (courtesy of a visit to her grandparents and her fascination with a veggie patch), I wont let that deter me, outdoors for 30 minutes a day or longer is a new rule we will also be living by! And at least I now know she doesn’t have my skin type – reassuring to say the least!

    So I must say thank you to you and your mum – both very wise women!!

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