Experts all agree on the benefits of sunlight for kids and that sunlight plays a crucial role in the overall health and development of children. While it does receive bad press, and it is crucial to be careful, spending time in the sun offers vital vitamin D, especially important for those of us living in locations where the sun may be in short supply at different points throughout the year.
When sunlight hits the skin, it triggers the production of Vitamin D. This essential nutrient is critical for the absorption of calcium, which is necessary for strong and healthy bones. But why is vitamin D important for kids? Well, in growing children, this is particularly important as their bones are still developing. In fact, a deficiency in vitamin D can lead to rickets, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones. There has also been evidence to suggest it can trigger the onset of conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life. Indeed, experts such as Dr Jacob Liberman believe that “every disease of modern times: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and so on are all related to Vitamin D deficiency because we are spending our days indoors.”
What are the benefits of sunlight for kids?
Aside from enhancing vitamin D stores, there are multiple other benefits of sunlight for kids.
- Strengthens the immune system
Sunlight strengthens the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells, increasing the body's ability to fight off infections. Children are often exposed to various germs and pathogens, especially in school settings.
- Natural light triggers our serotonin levels
It is incredibly difficult not to feel uplifted by the sight of a bright day and children are no exception. But unknown to many, this is rooted in scientific fact. The National Institute for Mental Health found that light affects the brain areas that regulate mood. Exposure to natural light triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, and which can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. For children, maintaining a positive mental state is essential for healthy social and emotional development.
- Influences children's internal clocks
Sunlight exposure also influences the body's internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, which helps to regulate sleep patterns, resulting in improved overall health and cognitive function.
- Helps to maintain good eyesight
Another reason why sunlight is important for children is how natural sunlight plays a crucial role in maintaining good eyesight. Spending time outdoors in well-lit environments helps prevent myopia (near-sightedness) and other vision problems in children. It encourages them to focus on objects at various distances, reducing the strain on their eyes from prolonged screen time or reading indoors.
How to Get More Sunlight for Kids
Encouraging children to spend time outdoors in the sunlight is essential for their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Children are more likely to embrace outdoor play and physical activity in the sun, which plays a key role in a child's physical development. Outdoor activities promote better cardiovascular health, coordination, and muscle development. Getting kids to engage in outdoor activities in sunlight can help reduce their screen time, which has been associated with various health issues, including obesity and sleep disturbances.
So, how do you get more sunlight for your kids? Here are some of our favourite activities you can enjoy with your child, and indeed your family, outside.
- Outdoor Playtime
Let children engage in unstructured outdoor play in a safe and supervised environment. This could include running, jumping, playing catch, or simply exploring nature. After a lively time outdoors, it is most likely they will be a little mucky, so why not run them a fun, and cleansing, bubble bath made from natural hawthorn berries? Not only does our bath time range harness the beautiful scents of nature, but a warming bath can have a multitude of benefits for toddlers and babies promoting relaxation and sensory engagement.
- Nature Scavenger Hunt
Create a list of items found in your local park or backyard for kids to find. This activity promotes observation skills and encourages outdoor exploration.
Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in a park or in your backyard. Kids can help prepare the meal, and you can all bask in the sun while eating together.
Involve children in gardening activities. They can help plant flowers or vegetables and learn about the natural world while getting soaking in the benefits of sunlight for kids.
- Sidewalk Chalk Art
Provide sidewalk chalk and let children get creative on the pavement. This artistic activity combines outdoor play with artistic expression.
- Bike Riding
Riding bikes is an excellent way for kids to enjoy the outdoors and get exercise. Make sure they wear helmets for safety.
- Nature Crafts
Collect leaves, sticks, and other natural materials during a nature walk, and then use them to create art or crafts outdoors.
- Outdoor Sports
Engage in outdoor sports like football, rounders, basketball, or tennis. These activities promote physical fitness and teamwork while soaking up the sun.
- Cloud Watching
Lie on a blanket and watch the clouds go by. Encourage kids to identify different cloud shapes and imagine what they look like.
- Enjoy the Sunset
While sunlight is essential during the day, there are often high levels of UV rays requiring vigilant sun safety for kids and babies. As the sun begins setting, levels of harmful UV rays begin to drop. Enjoying a beautiful sunset outside together, wrapped in cosy blankets, can be a great bonding experience while you catch the last of the day's sunlight.
- Building a Fort
Use blankets and cushions to build an outdoor fort or tent in the backyard. Kids can read books, have snacks, or play games inside their new space.
- Beach Day
If you live near a beach, spending a day at the seashore is a fantastic way to enjoy sunlight. For busy families, it provides a wonderful opportunity to bond over sandcastles and seashells - and if you are travelling further afield to hit the beach, don’t forget to pack our travel sets!
These activities not only allow children to benefit from sunlight but also foster a love for the outdoors and nature, promoting a healthy and active lifestyle from a young age. But, it is important to remember to take necessary precautions when spending time outdoors to protect children from excessive sun exposure. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF, dress them in protective clothing, and provide sunglasses and hats to shield them from harmful UV rays. Also, encourage regular breaks in the shade to prevent sunburn and dehydration. Introducing a facial moisturising routine after a long day in the sun can help replenish any lost natural moisture as well as help your child feel refreshed after their busy day.
What happens when children lack vitamin D?
When children lack sufficient vitamin D, it can lead to a range of health problems and developmental issues. This is why Vitamin D is so important for kids as it aids various bodily functions.
- Impaired bone health
One of the most well-known consequences of vitamin D deficiency in children is impaired bone health. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium from the intestines. Without enough vitamin D, the body cannot properly utilize calcium, leading to weakened bones. This can result in conditions including rickets, which can lead to skeletal deformities, delayed growth, and an increased risk of fractures.
- Muscle weakness and fatigue
Vitamin D deficiency can also cause muscle weakness and fatigue in children. This can affect their ability to engage in physical activities and may lead to a lack of interest in outdoor play and exercise.
- Weakened immune system
Vitamin D is known to play a role in the immune system. Children with a deficiency may be more susceptible to infections and illnesses. They may experience more frequent colds, respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency in childhood may be associated with an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, MS, and inflammatory bowel disease. Studies have also linked inadequate vitamin D levels to conditions including osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers in adulthood.
It's important to note that vitamin D deficiency can be prevented and treated with proper dietary intake, exposure to sunlight, and, if necessary, vitamin D supplements prescribed by a healthcare professional. However, it's essential to ensure that children receive an adequate intake of vitamin D through a balanced diet and appropriate sun exposure, while taking precautions to protect their skin from excessive UV radiation.
Which food increases vitamin D in kids?
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, and sardines are rich in vitamin D and grilled or baked, they can be both a tasty and nutritious addition to a child's diet. A popular supplement, cod liver oil is also extremely rich in this nutrient.
Certain varieties of mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake mushrooms, contain a small amount of vitamin D. While not a primary source, including mushrooms in meals can contribute to vitamin D intake.
Eggs can also contribute to vitamin levels as there are fat, vitamins, and minerals found in the yolk, but it depends on how the hens have been raised. Eggs from free range chickens are the best for a children’s diet.
- Fortified foods
Many foods are fortified with vitamin D to help people meet their daily requirements. Common fortified foods include fortified milk (both cow's milk and plant-based alternatives including almond or soy milk), fortified orange juice, and fortified breakfast cereals. You can check product labels to ensure they are fortified with the recommended vitamins.
The amount of vitamin D in natural food sources can vary, and it may be challenging for children to obtain enough of this vitamin through diet alone, especially if they have limited exposure to sunlight. Therefore, it's often recommended that parents and carers ensure they know how to get more sunlight for their kids, as children, especially those at risk of deficiency, will need to get their vitamin D through a combination of dietary sources and safe sun exposure.
Additionally, if there are concerns about a child's vitamin D intake or levels, it's a good idea to consult a paediatrician who can provide personalised dietary recommendations and, if necessary, suggest vitamin D supplements to ensure the child's nutritional needs are met.
Explore our collection of natural skin care for kids, designed specifically for sensitive skin, and ensure your little one's skin is replenished with essential moisture while they enjoy the benefits of sunlight.