Photo © Flickr user devinf
There are dozens of reasons why you should get outside with your baby or toddler. Firstly, more and more kids nowadays fail to get enough outdoor time, so the younger your child is when you introduce her to nature, the better. Exploring nature early on means your child will be a nature fan right from the start, which will hopefully translate into a nature-loving older child. Nature is healthy. In fact, playing outside has been shown to reduce Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms, and it can improve concentration and learning skills. Outdoor time is also linked to a reduced risk of asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, vitamin D deficiency, depression and more. Additionally, consider that an early start in nature helps teach your child how to be outside, which may seem like a bizarre idea, but unlike kids of past generations, many kids today don’t understand how to manage outside time at all. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, being outside can increase not only your child’s happiness, but your happiness as well. Getting ample amounts of fresh air is one excellent way to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and when you take care of yourself, everyone benefits. Now, as you can see there are oodles of benefits to nature time. However, sometimes new parents are anxious about taking their baby or young toddler outside. You don’t have to be. With the right gear and some fun activities up your sleeve, babies and toddlers will feel right at home in the great outdoors. Keep reading to see some quick tips that will let you easily enjoy and explore nature with your little one.
Photo © Flickr user Ben Francis
Gear up: Have a ready-to-go travel bag on hand at all times, so when the mood strikes (and your tot is agreeable) you can get outside in a hurry. Pack the basics (extra diapers and wipes) plus some safe sunscreen, a thin blanket for spreading on the ground, water, an extra jacket for chilly days and maybe one small nature toy.
Plan for tired feet: Babies can crawl in the grass, but of course aren’t walking around, and toddlers get tired really easily. Always take a sling or baby carrier for young babies and/or a lightweight stroller for your toddler. Another fun option if the terrain is smooth is a little wagon – toddlers love wagons but will often complain while in a stroller.
Be there and be patient: Unplug – outside time is not the time to be texting or making calls. Also, enjoy your time with your little one and try to be patient. When my son was a toddler, I’d get so frustrated with how slow he’d walk plus all the stops and starts, mainly because my plan was to double up outside time with exercise. Don’t do this! Assume that nature time with a baby or toddler is fun, relaxing time, not exercise time. Let your little one go at his own pace, and arrange for actual exercise time outside when someone is watching your child or when your kid is asleep in a stroller (then walk faster).
Take a pail and shovel: This is a perfect outside toy for older babies and toddlers. It’s 100% multi-functional and can be used to scoop sand, gravel, rocks, water, bark chips, and more, plus your child can use it to collect nature goodies like pine cones and flowers.
Easy nature exploration tips…
- Smell: Sniff flowers, bark, dirt, pine cones and the grass.
- Touch: Feel all the different textures of nature, from grass to bark to smooth (larger) rocks to cool water to slippery leaves.
- Listen: Encourage your baby to listen to the birds chirping, the wind racing, bees buzzing, rain drops plopping and more.
- Play: Use “I Spy” to encourage fun. Go on an animal scavenger hunt, jump in puddles, hold scarves up in the wind and watch them blow or hunt down a list of different colored plants and flowers.
- Be brave: Don’t freak or panic over a little dirt or bugs. Kids like this stuff, and most of the time it’s ok to explore. Just watch out for dangerous bugs and wash up after you go inside.