Napping your kids outside. Everyday.

Have you heard of this?

When I say napping outside, I’m not talking about letting your child finish thier nap in the stroller after a walk or  letting them fall asleep in a pack while you hike – although those are both great ideas. I’m talking about people who put their children outdoors to take nap every single day, no matter what the weather. No matter where they are, which is often right outside their own home.

I first read about this idea on DesignMom, in a post about a trip she’d taken to Sweden. She described the country as “one big Waldorf school” where kids spend a lot of time outdoors. They play outdoors, spend school time outdoors, and yes, their kids take naps outdoors. It’s sounds like the OutsideMom’s version of a utopian society to me.

After reading this I was intrigued, so I tried it out with one of my own children when he was just a few weeks old. I put him to sleep in a baby Moses basket and set him outside under the trees in the yard for a nap.

To be honest I think I would have felt more comfortable putting him to sleep off the side of the trail than I did in my own backyard. I didn’t have a porch, so he wasn’t right next to the house where I could keep an eye on him. I was constantly checking on him and eventually just went and sat outside instead of staying in the house and doing anything productive – which is what nap time is usually for.

I’m not sure where I went wrong. Was it just my good old American supervision gene kicking in?  I was worried about the neighbors dog eating him. I was worried about the ants finding him, a bird pooping on his face, a sudden gust of wind, a loud motorcycle driving by, a rogue kidnapper…

Maybe I was just paranoid because I it was so… unconventional. If it were a good idea why wasn’t everyone in my neighborhood putting their kids outside for a nap? 

Probably because I don’t live in the Nordic Countries.

A fellow blogger friend of mine (and native Norwegian and outside baby napper) Kari Svenneby recently brought the idea of napping outside back to my attention when she sent me the article: Babies Who Nap in Subzero Temperatures.

Apparently “the theory behind outdoor napping is that children exposed to fresh air, whether in summer or the depths of winter, are less likely to catch coughs and colds”.   Of course you’ll need to dress your child properly, maybe get one of these cool napping buggies, but it actually seems like a pretty good idea.

What do you think?


27 Comments so far

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  1. Maren

    Wow that is really Interesting. I think I would be to paronoid too. But you do have to wonder what is causing the paranoia? Is it just because it is out of the norm? Very thought provoking.

    • Maren – Ya, it’s gotta be because it’s out of the norm. I wish I would have just kept doing it, I bet I would have felt more natural in no time (no pun intended).

  2. Living in Finland, another Nordic country, napping outside is the common thing to do, our kids sleep outside as we did, and our parents… I’ve started putting my kids to nap outside from the age of one to two weeks, they have been born in the winter. I find they sleep so much better outside, enough reason to nap outside. Even like sleeping outside my self, on the balcony, the colder weather, the better sleep ;)

    • Hanna – That’s awesome! I do have one question – I’ve read a lot about people putting their babies to sleep outside all winter. What about summer, how warm does it get there? Are there temperatures you would consider ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’?

      • It’s just a question of dressing/budling them accordingly. I would say about -20celsius, about -5F would be something to think about sleeping inside. But if you have the opening of a cot covered with a light cloth the breathing air close to baby stays pretty warm. In the summer +30C, 85F is no problem as long as you keep your baby in the shade. väen in freezing weather it’s good to keep your baby in the shade since the sun really warms the cot up quickly. :)

        • Hanna – Wow! You guys really know how to do things up there. I think it’s fabulous, I need to start that trend here. Do kids all nap in little strollers like this Or are there other things you use too? This photo is also fascinating because if someone left their stroller parked outside with a kid in it in the US (especially in the winter) I’m pretty sure someone would call the police and they would send Child Protective Services.

          • Looks familiar :) we have had Bill and Ted’s strollers with the baby basket and Chariot Cougars with infant sling, I’ve also used a big cardboard box on the balcony. This kind, that we get as ‘Maternity package’ from the government. You can see how the package includes a sleeping bag and winter cothes for sleeping outside. I also use sheep skins on strollers when it gets freezing, under the kid and if it’s really cold, to cover up as well :)

  3. I have memories of mother putting us out in the carriage to nap, and I can remember seeing babies in carriages in the front of houses taking naps when I was younger. Of course I’m 47 this was some time ago. I have heard the same thing that having a child outdoors was goof for them. Now that we have monitors and video cameras watching there every move I think it’s harder for parents to do. I would be uncomfortable doing it with my kids. But, I think it’s a nice idea

    • Kathy – Aaaa, what a great memory. Where did you grow up? Was it outside the US? That’s interesting that you napped outside yourself, but you would be uncomfortable doing that with your own children. Why do you think that is?!? I guess there are a few things I did as a kid that I would not feel comfortable letting my kids do, like tube down a canal without adults or life jackets… The whole concept of ‘supervision’ now days is fascinating!

  4. Living in Finland, this is the standard thing to do. My kids, born in September and November, started napping outside in two weeks age, in any weather. I wouldn’ t know about them being healthier but they deginitely sleep better outside.
    If you are worried about their well being outside, just put a baby monitor nearby.
    Oh, and I too sleep so much better outside, the colder the weather the better! I don’t know what my neighbours think about me sleeping on the balcony – or the State of our marriage!

  5. My mommy friend from Denmark (and originally from Macedonia) put her little guy outside for all his naps as an infant even in the cold, wet Seattle winter—I was always fascinated by the practice, but he would sleep for at least 2 hours that way–she just bundled him up appropriately.

    • Kate – Thats awesome! I really wish I would have done this with my kids more.

  6. I think this is an awesome idea. Now that the weather is warming up and it’s finally stopped snowing, I think I might try it!

    • Jessica – Ya, I wonder if it’s something you have to have started when your child was a baby? I think of putting Viv outside now and I think she’d probably just look at me like “are you you kidding me”. The noises would be different, the environment, etc. Still, I kinda want to try too. And what about hot weather? Hot weather has the potential to be trickier than cold weather.

  7. I love the idea… But I’m trying to figure out how to make it work with my 17 month old who still nurses to sleep for naps. (I’ve never had a baby who just falls asleep on his own – I usually lie down with them to nurse and then sneak away once they are fully asleep.) But maybe if I had a stroller he’d fall asleep in that without the milk? Hmmm… will have to think on this idea. I suspect the sounder sleeping would definitely be a bonus.

    • A short wall with strollers does the trick if the kid has trouble falling asleep. Or just teach the kid to fall asleep on their own, it might take a few times of crying a bit but they do learn. And you can be nearby and talk calmingly every once in a while, so the kid doesn’t get the feeling of being totally alone. I also know some families who have another crib outside in the shade.

  8. Sarah

    Well I live in Maryland, and I’ve had all my kids nap outside frequently. I cheat and put them in the swing usually and just set it in the yard while we play around her all day. My oldest took ALL his naps outside on a rooftop porch in his swing. They just sleep better outside, lol. I have a picture of my second baby at four months, napping in a coil of climbing rope my husband used to cradle him on the ground. We put him under a Charlie Brown Christmas tree and just kept an eye on him while we were climbing

  9. Sarah

    Oh to add, hot weather I just strip them to a diaper and put them in the shade. Up to 100 degrees that’s fine for me. It doesn’t get terribly cold here, like 30s mostly…so that’s just layering and making sure their face isn’t in the wind at all.

  10. Jen

    I love this concept. Think I’ll try it this summer.

  11. […] :: Outside baby nappy […]

  12. Anna-Louise

    In Denmark where I am from, the common thing is to let the kids nap outside all year round down to minus 10 degress celcious. I was in the states in 2010 with our back then 14 mounth Thea and she napped outside there as well. I have two kids and they have taken all their naps outside. In winter we use a Voksipose, its a fabulous intervention from Norway. Try It is made out of 100% pure wool which helps the baby ( you can use it up to three years) to the most comfortable temperature. Everyone has voksis and I couls never live without mine. You dont have to worry whether your baby is too warm or cold.

  13. Jenna

    I really like how the comments here are sensible. :) Most of what I have been reading on the web are quite horrified about this normal practise in Nordic countries.

    I am not a mother myself but have been babysitting my sisters kids quite a few times. I totally support the outside napping, don’t know wheter its really healthier or not though. From my own experience though it was always a pain to try to get the kids nap inside when it was too cold outside, at best 45min when the naps outside usually were over an hour.

    Personally now that it’s summer in here I don’t sleep well because it is way too hot, I sleep better during the winter because it’s colder. Usually I have window open even in -30C, the rest of the family thinks my bedroom is like a freezer :D

  14. I would love this idea if the mosquitos wouldn’t eat my children alive. We sat in the car for 3 minutes today with the door open (no bug spray on because we were headed to Walmart!) and my baby was bitten THREE times. My oldest was bitten once and it was only once because she had a long skirt on. In Virginia….where the mosquitos are the worst I’ve seen…ever! I think in our case the potential damage of continual bug spray use would outweigh the benefits but it’s sure is a cool idea!

  15. Napping outside isn’t something that is new to me because as a kid growing up in the Philippines, napping outside is something that we do. I mean, a lot of Filipinos don’t have airconditioners at home so the only way you are going to get cool breeze is napping under the tree. It is quite calming actually and yes, fresh air. We make our own hammock and tie it under the tree or build a bench.


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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