One of the most hopeful signs of the times is the extension of the fresh-air cult to the nursery. During the last ten years mothers, and even nurses, have gradually become educated to the hygienic truth that the baby who lives in a properly ventilated nursery will be healthier and happier in consequence. In a few years' time it may be that we shall reach the logical conclusion of this doctrine, which is simply this: accustom babies to the open-air life from the very start and they will thrive and develop, escape illness and catarrhs because they are being fed day and night on fresh air, the very best tonic and food combined. The child who is fortunate enough to be born in the spring or summer can start the open-air life straight away.
What does it mean? Not only open windows day and night, which are absolutely necessary as part of the treatment. Not only daily outings in good weather and bad, so long as the perambulator is protected from rain or heat. It means that baby is outside the house practically all day long, from his morning tub until bedtime. He can sleep out of doors in a perambulator or a hammock far more restfully and comfortably than in a bed in the nursery. If you live in the country and have a garden, there is no difficulty about baby following the outdoor life all the time. Even in town, if you have a strip of ground or garden, a porch or a balcony, it can be managed; whilst people who live in flats can always put baby to sleep, protecting him by plenty of clothing, beside a wide-open window.
The fortunate people who have a piece of garden, yard, or green, can achieve the outdoor life for baby, more easily. As he gets past the perambulator stage, he can be suspended in a hammock. It may be necessary to order a special wooden stand if baby is restless, so that he cannot twist himself out of the hammock and sustain a fall. But in most cases an ordinary hammock slung between two poles or trees will answer the purpose, and up till the age of six or seven years the children will enjoy their morning sleep in dry weather in the open air.
It goes without saying that the outdoor baby will have his meals out of doors as often as possible. When the weather is warm and sunny the infant can be kept out of doors nearly all day, having his bottles taken to him, whilst his play hours can be spent on a rug spread on the lawn, with a waterproof sheet or oilcloth below it to protect him from the grass. As he gets a little older, one of the patent pens or playgrounds can be bought, or a little pen may be made on a carpenter's bench at home, which will prevent him from crawling any distance to investigate what interests him.
Let the older children also have meals out of doors. It may entail a little trouble, but the pleasure and health which the children derive are surely worth it. If they have a garden table, and a couple of chairs of the right size, their little dinner or tea, or even breakfast, can be carried out of doors on a tray. The ideal plan is to have a verandah or balcony opening off the
A child can sleep out of doors in a hammock even more restfully than in the nursery, and should take his morning sleep thus whenever possible
Tea out of doors should be the rule whenever weather permits nursery, so that even in wet weather meals can be partaken in the open air practically all the year round. Only a fog can be regarded as a preventive to the safe enjoyment of the open-air life, because of the particles of dirt the child breathes into his lungs. As a rule children delight in the open-air life. They will arrange their games to correspond, and generally take up gardening quite early with very little encouragement; while all sorts of outdoor games can be organised with a little ingenuity, small-sized tennis-rackets and indiarubber balls providing them with half a dozen games. A see-saw in a corner of the garden is always a delight, and a swing is almost indispensable. Lessons can be learned just as well in the fresh air as in the schoolroom or nursery, and sometimes a little home-made summer-house can be erected to provide shade and a day nursery for the children in wet weather.
The health advantages are almost too many to enumerate. In the first place, your child becomes practically immune to colds and catarrhs. He grows sturdy and strong, because he is breathing pure air into his lungs and is not exposed to the devitalising effect of poisoned air as are the children who spend half their waking hours in a room with other people. One of the best results of the open-air cult for children is that*'they grow up more placid, less nervy and restless. For one thing, they
A ride on a toy horse in the open, with the aid of a bigger child, is both an excellent pastime and healthy exercise sleep better out of doors. Also, pure air in itself is a sedative, and these children grow and develop better, and are stronger in their general physique and in their nervous systems. The mother of outdoor children has more leisure because the children amuse themselves happily for hours. The house is kept tidy and cleaner, and even fires can on many days be dispensed with, because it is an acknowledged fact that those people who are accustomed to the outdoor life do not feel the cold like those who are over-coddled indoors.
It is worth a trial, at any rate, and summer is the very season to make a start. Protect a child from the hot rays of the sun by a shady hat, and the provision of a shady place in which to play. Protect him from damp and damp ground by the wear of proper footgear and rugs on which to play, if necessary, and you take practically all the precautions that are required. The children themselves take to the open-air life at once. If they live in a town it is absolutely necessary that you give them open-air pleasures in the shape of country rambles, picnics in the woods, and other excursions. Most children love picnics, and the amusement is healthy, simple.and easily devised. Such pleasures are preferable, from the health point of view, to the excitement which so many children are provided with nowadays in the shape of cinematographs and similar enter-
Children will enioy games of all sorts in the garden more than indoors, and by amusing themselves happily give both nurse and mother more leisure tainments, or large parties in heated, crowded rooms. All these are a fruitful source of catarrhs and other infectious ailments, and by providing excessive excitement, and too rich food, do far more harm to children than parents realise.
The open-air life, on the other hand, is ideal from the health and hygienic standpoint, whilst in a modified form it can be obtained by nearly every parent by the exercise of a little ingenuity and thought.