Christmas is coming, the sun has gone away, let’s make sure our children still get out to play

We all feel better when the sun is shining don’t we?

Mood, eating habits, sleeping, energy levels and behaviour can all suffer during the winter months and this goes for children as well as adults.

Have you noticed your child has less energy in the winter months? Perhaps they become more irritable and sensitive, cry or get upset more easily, crave carbohydrates and sugary foods (even more than usual!) or have difficulty concentrating.

Living in the northern hemisphere leaves us lacking fresh air, exercise and vitamin D from the sunshine during the winter months. All these ingredients are crucial for overall health and wellbeing so without them we can suffer from what is often referred to as the winter blues or, in extreme cases, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – and this affects children too!

The problem is made worse when school playtimes and PE have to be moved indoors due to the weather. Children then come home from school and plonk themselves on the sofa because they can’t get outside to play. Christmas arrives and children spend two weeks sitting around the house, indulging in food treats and watching TV or playing on screens.

Children’s health and wellbeing charity, the Sunflower Trust, believes it can beat this winter health slump with just a few lifestyle changes.

Sunflower’s ideas for a happy winter:

Indoor family workout/aerobic sessions to music

Put on your favourite family tunes, get into your exercise clothes and have a fun session. Look up some exercises in advance and take it in turns to step out front and lead the exercises. Not only will it get everyone moving, but it will probably get everyone laughing as well!

Geocaching

It’s not always that inspiring to get outside when it’s wet and cold. Geocaching gives you a bit more incentive to wrap up and leave the house! It’s basically outdoor treasure hunting…and who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? Just search online for geocaching options near you.

Try something new

Challenge yourselves to try something new once a week as a family. It could be going for a cycle ride together, going ice skating or even trying a pony ride. Maybe you could wrap up warm and try an outdoor art/painting session in the garden. Or why not head to the park for some family winter Olympics – three legged races, space hopper racing, dribbling a football etc.

Walk to and from school

A brisk walk is a great way to start and end the day. If you live too far away from school, try just parking a bit further away. A 10-15 min walk at each end of the day can make a big difference to our overall health.

Vitamin D

We get our vitamin D from sunlight during the summer months but from November to March in the UK, and October to April in Scotland, the sun is not strong enough for us to get the amount of vitamin D we require.

Sunflower practitioner, Sheree McGregor says: “Vitamin D is produced in every cell in the body with the help of sunlight, therefore it affects the whole of the body and hence every aspect of our health and wellbeing. This includes keeping our bones healthy and modulating calcium levels, promoting the immune system to fight against colds and flu. The status of Vitamin D in children will contribute to their developing health as adults. It improves not only present health but safeguards future health.”

Foods that contain Vitamin D include oily fish such as salmon and fresh tuna, eggs, some cereals and some yoghurts.

Dr Louis Levy, Head of Nutrition Science at Public Health England (PHE) says: “A healthy, balanced diet and short bursts of sunshine will mean most people get all the vitamin D they need in spring and summer. However, everyone will need to consider taking a supplement in the autumn and winter if you don’t eat enough foods that naturally contain vitamin D or are fortified with it. And those who don’t get out in the sun or always cover their skin when they do, should take a vitamin D supplement throughout the year.”

The NHS says a daily dose of 400 units of vitamin D is safe for all age groups.

The Sunflower Trust delivers an innovative health and wellbeing programme for children. If you are concerned that your child needs a little extra help, contact the Sunflower on: 01483 531498, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.