Fresh Air: It’s for Your Health

“Every hour spent in the open is a clear gain,
tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigour,
and to the lengthening of life itself.
They who know what it is to have fevered skin and throbbing brain deliciously soothed by the cool touch of the air
are inclined to make a new rule of life:
Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.”

– Charlotte Mason, Home Education

Winter is only half over here in Ontario. The snow still flies … the winds still blow … our wood pile is quickly shrinking … and temperatures remain frozen. And yet, every day, after lunch, my children are bundled up and encouraged to go outside and play for a few hours – yes, even in the winter. And yes, even the two year old.

I’ll never forget the day I saw my friend’s Dutch grandmother bundle up her infant grandson and place him in a snuggled-up 1950s buggy and roll his little stroller outside to their covered porch. I cannot remember just exactly how cold it was at that time, but it was definitely the middle of a chilly Ontario winter. I questioned the wise and confident Oma as to why she left her grandson out in the cold, albeit tucked in warm blankets with his head and body covered. Her simple answer:

“It’s good for him. Babies sleep better with fresh air.”

As a first time young mom, I was shocked to hear such advice, but she was right! Until then, I had never heard of allowing a baby to sleep outside in the chilly air before. But now, after years of being a parent myself and seeing the benefits of fresh air, I believe – I know –  her view was correct.

Recently, as I was watching my energetic children play outside on their snow hill, I realized one thing: all seven children have remained fairly healthy for the winter thus far, with only a few sniffles for the little ones. Part of this plays into the fact that , yes, they are homeschooled and therefore not around as many germs. However, I do credit most of their health to a very important factor: good old fashioned, crisp, fresh winter air.

I’m sure we all remember our parents or grandparents telling us to go outside and play because “It’s good for you.” Well, I believe that! While quite common in North American houses to have a “play room”, I have always felt that was an unnecessary room for a family’s home and have avoided having such a designated spot in our home. The play room, indeed, should be outdoors, amongst the whispering pines, the lush greens of the grasses, the rustling wind, the chilly Artic winter air and the balmy summer sun.

While I have not put my baby to sleep or nap outside in the winter yet, I do throw open the windows quite often in this old house of ours. Fresh air is vital, especially in the winter time when we breathe the same air constantly cooped up in our homes. You will will also find our children outside for many hours a day in the winter, finding things to do and adventures to create.

According to the Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit advocacy group, “Compared to the 1970s, children now spend 50 percent less time in unstructured outdoor activities. Children ages 10 to 16 now spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in vigorous physical activity. Yet they spend an average of 10.4 waking hours each day relatively motionless.”

How can that be good for these growing children? It is not. Let’s claim back the beautiful freedom of outdoor play for our children.

Before the little ones’ nap time, I have taken up the habit of going for a walk through our property with the baby, as well, to ensure the baby & I also receive enough fresh air. It is invigorating.

During the winter, the girls play outside for about roughly 4-5 hours a day in the winter {broken up in about 1 hr in the morning, as they do their morning animal chores, 1 hr. in the evening as they put the animals away and 2 hours or more of play after lunch}. The little ones are a bit less, but they are still right there, playing beside the big girls for a good hour or two each afternoon.

Lately, the older girls have been running through the back fields just at dusk, following animals tracks, pretending they are horses, running free as the wind … in the dim twilight one evening, they sat still in the dead, dried grasses and watched some deer grazing nearby.  The girls ran to the house, faces flushed with excitement and chill, and excitedly told me how surprised they were to see how large and tall the deer were and how high their white tales stood as they bounded away. My eldest daughter reported she found coyote tracks and followed them for a while.
Last night, they watched 14 more deer in the field within 20 feet of them.  Not only have they seen deer, they have seen turkey vultures, bald headed eagles, red-tailed hawks, Blue Herons, wild turkeys, weasels, raccoons, skunks and many types of smaller birds.

Every time the girls open the back door to burst outside, there is little Lazarus, pushing the screen door open, just trying to get out the door to play with them. He wants to be outside, despite his tender age of 14 months.

The benefits of playing and being outside are invaluable. Your grandparents were right – it is healthy!

Outside air and play time will give your child a steady supply of Vitamin D which will helps strengthen the bones as well as decreases the risk of cancers.

Children who breathe fresh air in large amounts will find it easier to concentrate, mainly with their school work, as it sharpens their attention span.

Children who spend hours of play outside in the fresh air have a lower need for medication for depression, anxiety and hyper-activity.

Time outdoors also lowers the chance for childhood obesity (that is an obvious bonus) as well as lowers the chance for childhood diabetes.

It is also great for their eyesight!
Not to mention, I have never reached bedtime where the girls were not tired and ready to crawl into their beds. Fresh air truly does make you sleep better.


And when they all tromp back inside, with cheeks flushed as rosy as red apples and noses tipped with pink, I know they have had their daily dose of God’s beautiful natural medicine: fresh air.


Linked up with Strangers & Pilgrims


February 16, 2017 - 7:47 am

Katy Fresh air is indeed a beautiful thing and much needed! We homeschool as well and I love that my children can spend time outside playing during the day! 🙂

February 14, 2017 - 4:32 pm

Gigi Julie … 🙂

February 14, 2017 - 4:31 pm

Gigi Laura, thank you for your visit … love your blog and your family’s history (OF COURSE! We love LHOTP!)….

February 14, 2017 - 3:37 pm

Julie I would tell my neighbors to mind their own and not worry about mine.

February 14, 2017 - 3:23 pm

Laura Ingalls Gunn I lived in Germany for a few years and often saw the buggy’s out on the front porch. Probably for the same reason. Such lovely children. The red coats against the white snow are gorgeous.

February 13, 2017 - 1:25 pm

Mrs.O Dear Gigi– so sweet of you to take time with such a thoughtful response. No, never had previous trouble, I just tend to worry about that. You have stated it so matter-of-factly, it has actually eased my mind a bit today!
I couldn’t agree more with you on children needing to play outside. What a lovely post.
Good, old fashioned childhood.
God bless you!

February 13, 2017 - 12:44 pm

Gigi Well, I would say that unless you have had problems in the past with people opposed to your children out during the daytime, I would think that would not be a problem. We have neighbours nearby but I would never think that children playing outside in the afternoon (or any time of day) would be an issue of concern. In the winter, we do our schooling in the morning and have free time in the afternoon. In the spring, we do our school work outside. Even better. 🙂
I would hope you would not have to concern yourself too much with what the neighbours would think – perhaps they would not even notice. 7 acres is a good spread of land.

February 13, 2017 - 10:58 am

Mrs.O Oh! As overly cautious folks are now a days, I will say both!!
Thanks for a quick response!

February 13, 2017 - 9:45 am

Gigi Are you concerned that people will wonder why your children are outside playing in winter? Or playing during the day time during school hours?

February 13, 2017 - 8:09 am

Mrs. O Oh! How I love this post. I am always concerned about critical neighbors. We do live in the country on 7 acres. We still can be seen though. Anyone else have those concerns? We are in the USA
Thank you

February 12, 2017 - 8:12 pm

Gigi Paula, thank you for your encouragement. I’m thrilled and humbled to have lifted your spirits!
Maike, you are so sweet. Maybe one day you will visit Canada and breathe our great fresh air!
Mom, I learned from the best. 😉 I have loads of memories of playing outdoors, more than playing indoors, as a child. You set the standard well.

February 12, 2017 - 6:36 pm

Brenda (Gigi’s Mom) Beautiful pictures!! And so TRUE!! Fresh air and sunshine is very healthy for all of us!! Good for you, Gillian … it’s great that you are raising these precious little ones to appreciate the outdoors and God’s creation!! xoxo

February 12, 2017 - 4:10 pm

Maike Oh I love you so much Gillian! What you write always makes me feel so much better. I often feel frustrated, thinking I’m the only one who believes in the oldschool lifestyle, simpleness, natural medicine, spending each day outside instead of cooped up inside day after day, imagine and playing without electronic and plastic toys,…and then I go to your blog, read a post, or even sometimes contact you, and I feel so much better…sure that even though I might be an alien, my thinking is good and I’m not alone. Sometimes I’m so thankful, I would just like to hug you.

February 12, 2017 - 2:43 pm

Paula Your blog is my fresh air. Your words and photographs lift my spirit. Thank you for sharing your life.