Being out in nature is essential to our well-being, the benefits not only help physical development but is a key component to good mental health. However, many parents struggle with getting their younger children outside or find that lots of activities cater mainly for children over 5. Thankfully, nature is a fantastic provider, and there are lots of ways you can start introducing your youngest to the great outdoors.
With a toddler and baby of our own, we have learnt many ways of getting the girls into nature over the last year. Pinterest have some fantastic activities if you want further inspiration, but these are our favourite top 5 ways of exploring nature with our girls.
A simple yet thoroughly enjoyable activity for all, nature walks can start the second you feel recovered from delivery. Just a short stroll to the local park or woodlands will not only do wonders for your own peace of mind, but will also start to introduce babies to the sights and sounds of the world around them. Safe in their carriers they can marvel at the leaves waving on the branches from the comfort of your arms. Ryver absolutely loves watching the world go by from her carrier!
Toddlers will especially benefit from these walks as a way of expending all of that energy. From sticks to leaves and muddy puddles, nature is a toddlers heaven. Aria loves nothing more than stomping through the mud, picking up leaves and collecting stones on our adventures. We even take the opportunity to teach her about all of the creepy crawlies and the birds she can hear singing in the trees.
A simple, affordable and fun activity for all of the family, nature walks have to be out favourite way of getting the girls outdoors!
Getting out into nature is fantastic, but what about the days when the weather is less than desirable? Well, bring nature indoors! We often collect pinecones, pebbles, dried leaves and a whole host of intriguing objects when out and about, that become perfect for these rainy days. Whilst we may be stuck indoors, the girls have a fantastic time exploring the various textures and enjoying some open ended play with natural resources.
Obviously, when choosing things for your sensory baskets, ensure they are large enough to not fit into any curious mouths, and don’t have any sharp edges or points that could potentially cause harm. There is so many resources readily available to us in nature, all we need to do is go out and find them!
For older toddlers, this can easily be turned into a fantastic learning opportunity, such as sorting into colours, shapes, types or habitats. What is fantastic is that by gathering these resources, is that they can be used in so many ways for when going outdoors simply isn’t an option!
Whether you’re lucky enough to own land, or only have an apartment with no outdoors space, gardening with your little ones is a great option for enjoying nature. Getting your hands into a soil, watching plants grow and learning about self-sufficiency is a huge part of our lifestyle.
Aria has a very active role in helping us with our garden and allotment. At only one and a half years old she is more than capable of helping to dig holes, water plants and harvest crops. It is amazing how capable our toddlers are once given the opportunity. Even if you don’t have access to a garden, you can still enjoy planting some herbs or flowers to grow together in the house.
Obviously for younger babies there isn’t much they can do in the way of gardening, but they certainly enjoy watching, feeling the dirt (make sure they don’t eat it….) and exploring the textures of plants.
Nothing is quite as grounding as time spent gardening. Little ones love it too! What toddler doesn’t love the opportunity to spend time in dirt!?
Nature walks are fantastic, but what can you spot whilst you are out? Perhaps a bird or a squirrel? Maybe a rabbit or a worm? Animal spotting is a great way of spicing up any trip outside. We love spotting all of nature’s creatures whilst out on our adventures, whether it’s in the woods, at the farm or even in our own back garden there are so many animals to find.
Toddlers especially love discovering new species. I will never forget Aria’s delight at seeing her first worm, or hearing the birds singing in the evening and trying to copy them. Animal spotting also does wonders for their speech and cognitive abilities. Toddlers will quickly learn to recognise different animals as well as their names and what sounds they make.
Often we will take our scavenger hunt packs with us to give Aria some guidance on what to look for in each habitat and she revels in matching each animal to it’s picture. It truly is fantastic to watch!
This can easily be adapted to older toddlers once they recognise a lot of animals. Now Aria has a pretty firm grasp on most animals, we are aiming to introduce track spotting using our track guide as her next step, as well as learning about habitats and a very basic food chain. What animals do you find out and about?
All of these activities are fantastic for introducing nature to both babies and toddlers. Obviously, there are so many more ideas out there, however these are definitely our favourite and will work very well for those also on a budget! What is great about nature is that the activities can be adapted as your child grows. Animal spotting can turn into lessons about habitats and ecosystems, nature walks can turn into day long hikes exploring new areas, the possibilities are endless. Together, your family can grow and explore nature in new and exciting ways!
How does your family explore nature?