Babies Sleeping Outdoors

Phil Warren - Published

The team at Growing Places @ Morelands had been researching the benefits of children sleeping outdoors.

You may be surprised to know it was popular here in the UK back in the 1950 and 1960’s, but this is something that as a society in the UK we have come away from and for some it may even be frowned upon.

The Morelands team had spent some time researching the best ways to support children’s sleep ensuring they have good quality naps in nursery when they found inspiration from the Nordic countries like Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, where sleeping outdoors is common places despite the cold weather conditions. Babies will sleep outside from as young as two weeks old and in freezing temperatures a study by Marjo Tourula, Arja Isola and Juhani Hassi found that children slept for longer compared to when they slept indoors, a better quality of sleep will lead to being more alert and better cognitive performance leading to improved learning. More than half of the parents in the study observed that their children ate better after sleeping outdoors.

Being immersed in nature, listening to the sounds of birds or the leaves rustling in the trees is soothing. These soothing sounds of nature have a calming effect on the children, reducing the cortisol levels and increasing the response that helps the body to relax meaning babies are much calmer.

Dr Rahul Chodhari of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health told the Telegraph:

“This is a very Scandinavian approach where afternoon nap-time in the back-garden where temperatures could drop below freezing,” he said. “It seems that young children, infants, are not bothered by the temperature and it doesn’t seem to affect their wellbeing at all. This is a cultural practice in places like Finland since even the 1920s and they have had tremendous a lower infant mortality rate than the UK for many years. The health benefits of children just being outdoors and physically active is enormous and there is no evidence that any harm occurs provided babies are well-wrapped and not cold. It’s about having a common-sense approach.”

Cold air is thought to increase the blood circulation in the lining of the nose and mouth and this increases immunity against bacterial, reducing germs and illness in children.

So the Benefits to sleeping outdoors include:

  • Better sleep
  • Less Illness
  • Better Appetite
  • Improved Learning
  • Calmer Babies

At Growing Places we believe the outdoor environment is fundamentally important for children, it is a rich space for learning along with health and wellbeing benefits of being outdoors.

“The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky”- Margret McMillan

We use of outdoors in our everyday opportunities so why not extend this further with babies sleeping outdoors.

At our Morelands setting they have been trailing this and seen the benefits for their children.

Lucy From Morelands Commented:

We started this at the beginning of September, as a team we thought about how we would ensure the children were warm enough (extra blankets, more jumpers and cardigans) and we spoke to the parents about why we were going to start doing this and the benefits we had researched. The parents seemed very positive and thought it was a wonderful idea that the children could fall asleep while listening to the wind, the rain and other sounds such as birds and cars passing on the nearby roads too.


We noticed the difference in the children nearly straight away, the children would go to sleep a lot quicker than when they were inside and the quality of sleep they had seemed a lot better. The children would also speak to us about what they could hear as they were calming before falling asleep – One of the children said to me one day ‘ I can hear a birdy tweeting, look Lucy he’s in the tree’.

Another child said ‘what’s that sound, when he could hear the wind blowing the leaves in the trees’.

So this is something you may see taking place in all our settings.

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