If the lockdowns of the past few years have taught us anything it’s that a nice walk outside is good for the soul! Getting out of the house and into the sunshine has plenty of benefits for the well-being of parents and babies alike.
But just how good are pram walks for your baby?
We have found seven primary benefits of an outdoor pram walk for a young child, and we discuss some tips to get the most out of your outdoor time.
7 Reasons Why Pram Walks Are Good for Babies
This list is focused on the benefits for a baby. As an extension of this, both parents will also benefit from additional exercise, fresh air, and general mental refresh that comes with being outside and breaking up your day.
Making a stroller walk part of your regular routine is a positive habit that can benefit the whole family!
1. External Stimulation
When you are outside things are constantly changing. You could walk through the same park every day and see different birds in trees, kids playing in the playground, and different lighting from the time of day. It is this variation in the environmental experience that can accelerate neural development in your baby over time.
Every walk is a sensory experience filled with the following external stimuli that increase in variety and intensity compared to being in the home:
- Visual – The people passing by, the trees on the street, cars driving past, are ever-changing as you walk along.
- Physical – The movement of the pram over the bumps on the footpath is a new type of stimulation that your baby will feel while secured in the seat.
- Audible – The variety of noises will be broad and unpredictable, and is new and exciting compared to the relative calm of your home!
Infants will be curious, engaged, and sometimes overwhelmed by all of these sources of stimulation that adults barely notice.
Even a newborn in a bassinet-style pram will benefit from all three of these stimuli, even though they may not be as exposed as a child sitting upright.
2. Conducive to Sleep
The gentle rocking motion as a pram rolls along coupled with a light breeze running over your baby’s face creates a soothing environment that can often lead to sleep within minutes.
If you are ever struggling to get your baby to nap then a short walk around the block with your child in the pram could be the circuit breaker required to get them to sleep.
3. Mentally Refreshing
A trip outside the house is exciting and the ever-changing scenery will capture your baby’s attention quickly. This can improve their mood as well as challenge them mentally.
You can take things up a notch by encouraging interaction with other children and running around before strapping them back into the pram to walk home. This keeps them fresh and will prevent them from climbing the walls at home!
4. Social Skill Development
Children are incredibly observant and even when they are strapped into a pram and you think they are not paying any attention they may still be absorbing all of your interactions on your day out.
All of your expressions, tone, language, and even how you listen are things that your baby will pick up on. Exposure to these behaviours can help accelerate the development of their own communication skills.
5. Improve Vitamin D Levels (6+ Months Only)
Generally, 10-15 minutes of sun exposure is enough to keep vitamin D levels high enough to support bone development and the body’s ability to absorb calcium. However, there are some important caveats regarding sun exposure with young children to keep in mind.
Newborns have delicate skin and are more likely to suffer a reaction to the use of sunscreen. You should not use sunscreen for the first six months and avoid direct sun exposure wherever possible until then.
After six months you should then only apply sunscreen to the areas that will be exposed to the sunlight. You can minimise this exposure with hats, light and loose fitted clothing, and the use of shades or umbrellas.
You can also minimise the exposure to harmful UV rays by sticking to early morning or late afternoon for sunlight exposure. The midday Australian sun is just too strong for babies and is more likely to cause harm, or overheating on a pram walk.
6. Exposure to Light
This is different from sun exposure and refers to the value in getting fresh air and being in natural light. The body responds very differently compared to indoor lighting and has been shown to improve the length and quality of sleep at night time by regulating circadian rhythms.
The benefits of light exposure amongst kids were shown to be far superior when compared to those who spent more time inside in a 2004 study:
“babies who slept well at night were exposed to significantly more light in the early afternoon period“Yvonne Harrison, School of Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University
7. Explore More of Your Neighbourhood
This may be the last thing on your mind after suburb lockdowns – is there really any more to see?! – but, having a pram will allow you to walk further than if you had your child in a baby carrier.
You can also stop off to allow your child to wander around in an open outdoor environment to break up the walk. This is a great way to add some variety to your routine and also mix up the sensory experience for your child. We discussed the variety in stimuli in point one, and the more you encourage their curiosity which can also help develop cognitive abilities.
The non-sterilized environment (e.g. playing in the dirt) will also help them develop an immune system and become stronger over time – within reason of course.
All of this outdoor time will be sure to tire them out and if they don’t fall asleep on the walk home you will have an easier time getting them to nod off at nap time when you get home. Which is always a help for a parent!
Walking with your pram is just as important for keeping parents fresh and stress free as they are for a baby’s ongoing development. Plus they are fun!
Regular exercise is great for all involved and the mental refresher of getting some air and sunshine should be more than enough to keep regular pram walks and trips to your local park a part of your daily routine.