Look at the world through a child’s eyes. It truly is an eye-opening experience to view something in a different way that might be otherwise so familiar to you. Your baby is constantly looking and learning, and you can do that same thing, right beside her. Getting outside and exploring nature is an excellent way to do just that. These will be the precious moments you’ll look back on and be grateful that you spent the time bonding with your baby while connecting with nature.
Every new sensory experience for your baby is a chance for her brain to form new connections. Sights, sounds, tastes, touches and movement all encourage brain growth. Exploring nature is an awesome way to promote brain development. In fact, a recent study in the European Journal of Social Sciences Education found that fresh air promotes early language development and healthy sleep. (Sleep! Need we say more?) If you’re wearing your infant during your nature travels, there’s the bonus of having your baby comforted and connected to you at the same time. And the best part is that you don’t need to go very far. Even spending time right outside your front door offers the first glimpses and benefits of nature to your precious little one.
Nature is the world’s classroom and it’s at our beck and call 24/7. Of course, your outdoor activities will be geared to accommodate your child’s growing abilities. Today you may be taking a casual walk to observe the sights and sounds of your neighborhood. Tomorrow, you may be watching the stars twinkle at night from your backyard or hiking a favorite trail. The great thing is there is so much to learn at every stage of your child’s development.
The founder of the popular Hike it Baby, a parent meet-up group that’s gone national, has these hiking tips to offer:
- Remember that you’re hiking with a baby. Start small and gradually work your way to go further if you can.
- Have a stash of snacks, bubbles, rattles and toys with you to use when you need to shift the energy.
- For your safety, hike with friends in the beginning. In the event you need help with something, support will be with you immediately.
While nature is always at our doorstep, you’ll need to be sure clothe your baby according to the weather conditions. In cooler temperatures, a cozy bunting for baby and blanket or shawl keeping you both cuddled together may do the trick. When the temperatures rise, light-weight clothing, a sun hat and shade umbrella may be the order of the day. You’ll want to be sure you’re outfitted appropriately as well with comfortable walking shoes among other weather-related garments.
Bugs Have Feelings, Too
Babies just love to explore, and that includes every blade of grass, crawling bug and flying bird. Each is a brand-new discovery and your baby will want to reach out and touch. Since she will be all about getting in on the action and has no sense of danger, you will of course need to dole out the exposure and activity keeping safety the priority, for her as well as the family pet! One of the sweetest moments you may witness as your baby or toddler grows is her compassion to living things. She may cry if she sees you squashing an ant underfoot. She may also perceive branches dancing in the wind as alive as she is and squeal when you clip them while you’re gardening. The lessons about living things will be plentiful!
There are so many ways that you and your baby can explore and enjoy all that nature has to offer.
- Observe animals in their natural habitat. Whether it’s a dog sniffing the ground, or a bird chirping on a fence, call attention to it, point it out. Then revel in the delight of her new discovery.
- Encourage touching. Of course, you’ll have to be discerning about this one. Flowers, tree trunks and acorns provide good tactile experiences.
- Talk about the weather. Raindrops on the window, streaming sunlight, even thunder and lightning are all good opportunities to teach your little one about the weather that surrounds us, and she will soon learn when it’s a good time, or not, to play outside.
- Visit the zoo. This is a favorite outing for the whole family. All the animals that have been the subject of countless storybooks will now come to life!
- Tiptoe through the tulips. A stroll through a garden will awaken your baby’s senses with its colors, smells and textures. You may even get to see a butterfly gently settling down on a delicate petal.
As your baby grows, she will continue to develop an appreciation for nature, all its creatures large and small, fawn and flora. Make the journey slow and sweet. Take the time to stop and smell the roses. Literally.