“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
Getting close to nature is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to feel better, boost your mood and improve your health.
In adults, it can reduce the symptoms of Alzheimers and dementia, be as effective as medication in cases of mild to moderate depression, and alleviate stress.
In children, the benefits are equally persuasive.
Just a 20 minute walk has been shown to enhance the ability of children with ADD/ADHD to focus. Playing outside reduces childhood obesity and lowers stress levels, in a time when stress and anxiety are at an all time high in children. And nature has been shown to increase energy levels and mood after just a few minutes outside.
And yet children spend an average of 6 hours a day inside with their technology. Instead of spending childhood outside building dens, climbing trees and exploring, millions of children are sat on sofas and beds, glued to screens.
This change in our childhood is having a lasting impact on the younger generation that continues into adulthood.
Nurture a love of nature in your little one from an early age, and instill in them a value of time outside. Activities don’t need to be overly planned or complex – every experience is a new one for baby so have fun and enjoy simple games together.
A recent study also found that babies sleep better after they’ve been exposed to natural light in the afternoon, so a bit of time enjoying nature could also give you both a better night’s sleep….
Here are a few activities outdoors for babies to help you get started:
1. Go for a walk
Although simple, heading outside with your baby is a mood enhancer for both of you. A change of scenery, a new view, helps brain development in your baby and lifts your mood.
Share the experience by talking to your little one about what you can see as you walk – they may not be able to understand exactly what you’re pointing at but the familiar sound of your voice is reassuring and pleasing. Give them plenty of opportunities to reach out and touch new things as you walk.
2. Take the walker outside
As your little one starts to move around and pull themselves up to practise walking, gather up a few toys and head outside. Encourage them to use what’s around (trees, rocks) to pull themselves up. Not only is this fun, energetic and challenging, it also helps with balance and coordination.
3. Create a garden treasure basket
Feeling different textures is a great way for your baby to discover more about the world.
Put together a small collection of things you find in the garden – a twig, a pebble, a leaf a pine cone and a flower – and spend time outside on the grass encouraging your little one to reach out, feel the different objects and explore different textures. If baby isn’t yet sitting up, use the opportunity for a bit of tummy time and place objects just within their reach.
4. Look up
Your baby’s perspective on the world will be very different to yours. Take a rug outside and lie little one down on their back under a tree. Lay down next to them and spend some time simply listening to and watching the leaves blowing in the breeze. If you’ve begun weaning you could even share a picnic together in the sunshine.
5. Water play for baby
Once baby is able to hold their head up and sit up, set-up a small paddling pool outside with a few toys in a couple of inches of warm water.
Watch as your little one experiments with splashing in the water, and keep them entertained with some fun toys like boats, balls and floating animals.
There are loads of fun activities outdoors for babies, whether you’ve got five minutes or five hours. The important thing is that you are relaxed and happy while sharing time with your little one, so do things outside that you both enjoy, and a love of nature will develop.
At Naturally Learning we love spending time outside, and so do the children who come here – find out more about our ethos here and arrange a visit to see for yourself how we’re encouraging little minds to love nature.