I think that most of us here know or understand that nature is important, there have been studies done, but also just going outside and taking a good breath can feel so good. However, let's be honest, taking an infant out in nature can appear to be a very complicated task! Especially if you live in a city.
TIPS ON TAKING AN INFANT OUT IN NATURE
Here are some tips on how I have been taking my babies out in nature based on their age and abilities.
I took my children outside from the time they were a few weeks old. I would grab a blanket (I have a nice foldable one with a strap
) and let them lie on their back and look around, at the sky, the trees, the leaves... it was always one of the quiet peaceful times of the day. It can be at the park or just in the backyard, at that age just the rustling of the leaves is interesting.
Rolling and scouting
As they get older they will roll on the blanket and look around. They will start scouting to the edge of the blanket and get their first taste (literally and figuratively) of grass!
Now comes the crawling phase. This is when they will adventure off the blanket and start discovering the natural world first hand. If you have a mouther, in my opinion, this is also the hardest phase. My 10 month old eats everything: paper, grass, books... you name it, he will eat it!
During this phase I am very careful, I make sure that anything he grabs is mouthable and I even select and offer natural items that are large and unlikely to break into small pieces. If he mouths something I deem not acceptable I ask him to give it to me, take it and say "I won't let you eat this rock, it's too small" and offer an alternative with 2 choices "but you can have this branch or this rock" (in a respectful language
). However I still follow him and let him crawl where he wants as long at there is no danger.
And then comes the walking, this is my favorite time as they are free to explore the most (and generally are less interested in eating everything by then). This opens up a lot more options for them and also us.
LIVING IN THE CITY
Now, if you live in the city and do not have a backyard try to find a park close to you. My first 2 were born in Las Vegas, where our very small backyard consisted of a pool (nice for a dip but not good to let a young child play around), concrete and fake grass (note the huge lack of nature!). I took them to the park nearly daily, either walked there or drove there, I knew all the parks in the area. We also had a little water and sand table at home for them to splash in.
To select your park, make sure to pick one that fits your child's ability. If you have a new walker, for example, select a park with nice flat areas that are easy to walk on. You can also pick a small playground with small stairs for them to practice (even with crawlers, my babies always climbed stairs before they walked!)
I have 3 boys, ages 10 months, 3.5 and nearly 6. We now live in a mountain area and have a nice backyard for all of them to play in so we spend a lot of time just being in the yard. We still like to go to the park for a change of scenery. I select the parks to try and fit all of my boys but really I go by the baby. For example we have an amazing wood natural playground close to the house however it is rocks and wood chips so I rarely go with my little one as it is not convenient for crawling.
I apply the same considerations to wilderness as I do for parks. We have been to the river and to the beach at the lake and we take our blanket and a tent
for the lake beach and let him explore. At the beach he really enjoyed the sand and the water, at the river he loves the rocks and the running water. At the river we try to find a spot with larger rocks or a large flat rock that make it easier for him to crawl or stand on however I have seen him crawl into little rocks and not care (it looks painful to me but he is fine!)
BRING NATURE INSIDE
And if you really cannot go outside because the weather is much too cold or stormy, you can always bring nature inside. For a baby under one: just a basket with a few natural items; for older kids: a nature tray or table.
For more on he Montessori Baby see Language and Communication with a Baby the Montessori Way