Hopefully by the time you’re reading this all the snow will have melted. Days are getting longer and there is more sun to soak up. Now that spring is here, it’s time to get outside and let out all the pent up winter energy. Sunshine and fresh air are so beneficial for children, both mentally and physically.
Soak up the sun. Yes, too much sun exposure can be damaging, but now is the optimal time to be in the sun. The spring sun isn’t too harsh and your child’s body will greatly benefit from some vitamin D after the long winter. Vitamin D plays a critical role in bone development and immune system function. It can also aid in healthy sleep and improve mood, both necessary for a productive student.
Running around and getting in some more exercise has an endless list of benefits. Even if your children get in 60 minutes of vigorous activity, the recommendation by the AAP, aim for more time each day at home. Even if it’s just another 15 minutes. Get out there too! You’re a great role model to your children. Studies show that vigorous exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. This can result in better concentration and improved memory. Take a quick walk or bike ride. Kick the soccer ball around in the yard, play tag, or hide and seek.
If you can’t get out there, which is very understandable as a parent, let your children play with friends. This has been something children really haven’t been able to experience the last few years. At least not in the same way they did before the pandemic. Even if it’s just siblings together, group play is a great way to socialize and increase their executive function. This is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. These skills help children multitask, plan, prioritize, troubleshoot and negotiate. This is a wonderful way for children to learn not only life skills, but skills that will translate to being a better student.
Playing outside will also give children more of an appreciation for nature. Children can see the beauty in all the little things, even a simple worm working its way through the dirt. Seeing the new flowers sprouting after a long winter, the buds on the trees, hearing the birds chirping. All these things can help teach children that nature is very valuable, and we need to take care of our environment.
With spring break right around the corner make this a time to recharge. Let your children take that much needed mental break from the demands at school. Spend lots of time outside and let’s hope there aren’t too many April showers.
This column is dedicated to Sylvan Executive Director and Owner Patrick McNamara, who passed away in February. Patrick was an advocate for student success and he was a great friend to all who worked with him.
Vanessa Banks is Co-Founder of Kernel Creative Media and the marketing strategist for Sylvan Learning of Clifton Park and Albany. For more information, visit SylvanLearning.com.