Expose them to nature.
The benefits of nature during childhood are endless:
- Nature enhances creativity, problem-solving and curiosity as it provides endless opportunities for learning with tons of exciting things to play with.
- You may find both you and your baby are in a better mood and get a better sleep after spending time outside.
- Interacting with nature has been shown to reduce stress, improve mental health and improve concentration in children.
- Kids naturally move more when they are outside. Those who spend more time outside tend to be more coordinated and in better physical shape.
Starting now means you are helping your baby establish a life-long habit of enjoying nature. They will be more likely to continue to venture outside and be creative, do well in school, be active and better able to handle life stressors. If there was an app that did all of these incredible things for our children, it would be the next sensation. No screen time or toy could come close to the real benefits of unstructured play time around nature. Where do we sign up?!
It can be tough to get out if you are not someone who “enjoys nature.” Try starting with your local park or stroller walks on a simple trail. Halton has lots of parks with scenic trails that might surprise you! Make it a goal to get outside with your baby or toddler once a day.
Let your baby get dirty. Do your best to teach them not to put dirt and sand in their mouths (I found giving my baby a teething toy helped). Keep baby in the shade on sunny days and dress for the weather.
Make it social!
Check your local Ontario Early Years Centre or recreation centre for outdoor programs such as stroller walks and preschool outdoor learning programs. When getting together for play dates, suggest meeting at a park (bonus – no need to tidy the house!).
Nature is good for YOU too
I’m not saying you need to be hiking into the wilderness or buying a farm; a small backyard or your local park is all you need to see the benefits of nature. Just get outside and veg out… breathe… lay down with your baby on a blanket. Look up at the tree you’re under. Watch and listen to the leaves as they move in the wind. Talk about what you see. Point out the bird flying in the sky. Relax and let nature bring you some perspective. Feel the wonders of nature for bringing down your own stress level.
As baby grows into an inquisitive toddler, get out and explore!! For me, one of the best parts about being a parent is seeing nature through my children’s eyes. We find funny-looking things growing out of tree stumps, tiny snails in the garden and pick “beautiful flowers” (weeds!) growing in the grass. It’s a good day when we’ve been outside together, even if it was only for 15 minutes after dinner.
What do you like to do with your baby or toddler outside? Share with us!
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.