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Nature truly is beautiful. Hiking, camping and exercising outdoors are a great way to relieve stress and experience life. Some research indicates that merely being in the presence of nature and trees can have a wonderful effect on human’s emotional well being. Adding a curious baby or toddler can make enjoying nature much more challenging, but they can benefit so much from the new experiences.
Go On a Hike
Hike’s are an amazing way to experience nature for the whole family and a great workout for the parents. They can be catered to your child’s age and the parent’s fitness level. Have a baby or toddler just learning to walk or looking for something that’s stroller accessible? Choose a wider trail without steep inclines. Have a more confident walker or adventurous toddler? Choose a trail with more twists and turns and some inclines or steps. And of course, don’t forget the babycarrier for when those little legs get tired. I find a soft structured carrier tends to be the most comfortable when hiking.
Visit An Animal Sanctuary
Exposing children to animals can make for a great teaching environment. It’s an excellent way to explore where animals live, what they eat and what they sound like. Depending on the type of animals at the sanctuary, some may be open to touch (our 14 month old loved meeting some friendly goats recently!) Zoos can be problematic in their care and treatment of animals sometimes, so we much prefer to visit sanctuaries where we know the animals are being taken care of.
Create Sensory Bins
Sensory bins are a great way to treat your baby or toddler to new and different tactile feelings. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. Simply get a plastic tub or bin and fill with items with an interesting texture. Is is autumn? Fill your bin with items such fallen leaves, pinecones or miniature pumpkins. Live somewhere where it snows? Try bringing in snow and having fun with food coloring. Collect or buy some fresh herbs to add an element of scent to your bin. Sensory bins are such a great way for children to experience new sensations – and a great way to introduce the outside world.
Let Them Experience Weather
As adults, the changing seasons can be a hassel to us – who wants to deal with rain or snow? But for children, especially toddlers and babies it’s something they’ve never experienced before and it’s fascinating. Take time to experience with them. Buy a raincoat and boots and take your toddler out in the rain to jump in puddles. Buy a snowsuit and build a snowman together. Rake a pile of leave and allow your toddler to explore. If it’s cold, make sure to check in often as toddlers may not realize they’re at they’re limit when they’re having so much fun. Simply pop into a nice warm bath afterwards to continue the fun.
There’s no better way to experience nature than to camp in nature! Camping can be as complex or simple as you like, whether it be camping in a tent, cabin, RV, or even putting sleeping bags out in your backyard to sleep (though be careful of the wandering toddler or baby). A lot of campsites book out months in advance, so if you’re looking forward to a certain site or season, make sure to research early. And don’t shy away from free campsites either, there are a lot of beautiful ones out there.
Reading is so beneficial to children; exposing them to new sounds, words, ideas and repetition. Even though your toddler may not completely understand what you’re reading, they do comprehend more than we give them credit for – particularly when a story has been repeated and they know what to expect. Why not read a nature themed book? Some good ones to start with are All Aboard! National Park Primer, Some Bugs, or Discovering Nature’s Alphabet (Affiliate Links; available on Amazon). Then connect the reading with an activity. Read a book about butterflies? Point out the butterflies outside. Going on a hike? Read a book about taking baby on a hike.
Garden or Pick Fruit
Gardening can be a great way to introduce your child to where their food comes from. If your toddler is able to help, have them water the plants or even pick weeds. When the fruit is big enough, harvest them with your toddler and have them ‘help’ you cook it (by adding ingredients, stirring or mashing fruits or vegetables). Not old enough to help cook yet? Try having them where they can see all the action, either in a highchair or by wearing them. My 15 month old loves being worn in a sling while I cook – he has a great view of all the cutting and chopping that I do. No room or time for a garden? Lots of farms will allow you to come pick produce such as apples or pomegranates during harvest season. Search around to see if this might be an option for your family.
Letting your young child experience nature can beneficial for all members of the family, and it can be as complex or as simple as you like.
Do you do any of these activities with your children? What other fun activities would you suggest?