Exploring Nature with your Baby: Part 2

Exploring Nature with your Baby: Part 2Exploring nature with your baby is one of the best activities you can do together. It’s fun for the whole family and boosts your child’s worldliness, sensory experiences and brain development. As we examined yesterday the benefits of exploring nature with your baby range from enhancing her mood and improving social skills, to broadening her sensory experiences and knowledge of all nature has to offer.

Many parents feel that because their baby is not walking, they cannot fully experience nature. This misconception leads to lots of stroller sitting outdoors. Some strollering is fine, but keeping your little one cooped up prevents her from reaping all of the benefits of exploring nature.

Check out these exciting activities for exploring nature with your baby:

Backyard Explorers: You can begin nature play with your baby as a newborn. Start by doing at least one tummy time session a day outdoors, weather permitting. As your baby grows and is able to sit, crawl and eventually walk, your exploration can take on new meaning. Think about all that your baby can see when she’s laying, sitting or crawling in the grass at ground level. Get right down there with her to view the world from her perspective. Encourage touching grass and leaves, pointing to insects and rocks, scratching dirt and sand, smelling flowers, listening to birds, and feeling the breeze. Identify what your baby is experiencing to help her connect words to objects and sensations.

Remember, being barefoot is excellent for young crawlers and walkers. It not only helps with sensory input and balance, your baby can also absorb minerals from the earth by being barefoot. If you’re worried about your baby’s knees getting scraped up by crawling outdoors, buy baby knee pads that will protect her skin.

Experience the Weather: If you think outdoor play is only for beautiful sunny days, think again! Let your little one feel the soft sprinkle of raindrops on her skin or crunch around in thick snow. Go out during a windy day to let the wind whoosh your hair. Take note of cloudiness vs. sunshine, humidity vs. dryness. While these may seem very abstract, your baby can sense these changes in the weather.

Experience the Seasons: When you dress appropriately, you can play outdoors in any season. Celebrate what’s new and exciting about each season. Plant a garden in the spring. Swim in a lake in the summer. Roll around in leaves in the fall. Build with snow in the winter. Mark the changing of seasons indoors as well with calendars, decorations and seasonal traditions.

Collect Nature: You may have noticed that your little one enjoys picking up objects and putting them into a container. This is super helpful when it’s clean-up time (assuming she doesn’t spill them out again) and it can be a fun nature activity. Provide a pail or box and let your little explorer collect objects such as sticks, rocks, leaves and pinecones. When she’s done, pour some water into the pail and let her mix up her nature stew.

Splash and Spray: Water is a huge part of nature and many babies find it delightful. Swimming in lakes, pools or the ocean, is always fun, or simply fill a plastic bin with water and give your little one some cups, spoons and balls to splash around. Spraygrounds are also quite popular in the summer.

Favorites Outside: Sometimes bringing favorite toys such as building blocks, paints, books and puzzles outside can be fun. With nature as your setting, it sheds new inspiration on these favorites.

Take a Walk: Exploring nature with your baby by walking or hiking can be enjoyable and bonding. Try wearing your baby in a carrier that allows her to face out. She can stay close to you and you can experience nature together. Be sure to narrate your walk, point out plant and animal life and take a moment to listen to the sounds of nature. At an enclosed park, let your little one guide the way if she’s walking. You may want to have a stroller or carrier on hand for the way back because she could venture farther than her legs can carry her back.

Sources: The Go-To Mom, Educatall, She Knows and Scholastic