A 2012 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that “a startling increase in the frequency of severe vitamin D deficiency is being reported in the U. S. and other countries.” Vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb calcium; deficiencies can have “a devastating impact on a child’s bone strength,” according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative.
Sometimes known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is manufactured in the body in response to sunlight. While dermatologists rightly warn that sun exposure can lead to skin damage and even cancer, sunscreen and hats are an easy fix.
With children back in school, opportunities for outdoor play are limited, especially as autumn leads to shorter days. All the more reason to make the most of afternoon sunshine. Allow homework to wait until later in the evening; sunshine and physical exercise are just as important to developing minds and bodies as textbooks. Have children trade in Wii sports for actual jump ropes, soccer balls, and swing sets. When it’s time to hit the books, children will be better able to concentrate, having burned off energy and soaked up some rays.
Opportunities for outdoor fun abound in every season, but fall has particular charms. Grab a rake and make leaf piles, leaf forts, and leaf nests. Visit a pumpkin farm or gather apples at a pick-your-own orchard. Stop by local waterways to greet geese returning from Canada. Cool temperatures make for comfortable hikes, while fall colors are a feast for the eyes.
Besides sunlight, vitamin D is found naturally in a limited number of foods, perhaps the most well-known among them being milk. An easy way to double-up on vitamin D? Serve a big glass of milk alongside your child’s usual afternoon snack…on a picnic blanket in the backyard! Sunshine. It does a body good.
On Saturday, November 9, from 2 to 4 p.m., Adkins Arboretum will host a Fall Fun for Families program. Enjoy a leafy scavenger hunt, take a nature walk along scenic woodland paths, roast marshmallows at Paw Paw Playground, and play fall games in the meadow. Each family will make a Paint ‘n Plant Pansy Pumpkin planter to take home. Click here to learn more.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator