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Exploring the outdoors with baby

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate statio...

Introduce your baby to the wonders of nature

Whether it's on a neighborhood walk, in the park or at the seashore or right in your own back yard, opportunities to experience nature can stimulate an infant's senses -- and breathing fresh air is good for everyone!
Enjoy nature with your baby
Baby and mom outdoors

You might be surprised at how encounters with nature can fascinate and teach your baby. Share the excitement of new sights, smells and sounds with your baby on nature explorations.

Take a walk

Even if you just stroll around the block, take your little one along! Strap your baby into a front carrier so they can look around as you move. Let the baby feel the sun and the wind, but remember to dress them appropriately for the weather and to protect delicate baby skin from the sun. Walk at a leisurely pace, and stop often to allow the baby to look at and touch small bushes or flowers. They will be intrigued by the feel of the leaves and the fragrance of the blooms. As you walk, talk quietly to the child -- giving the names of the things and the colors they are seeing, feeling, smelling and the new sounds they are hearing. Baby won't be frightened if you talk to them in a low, soothing voice. Listen to the birds, encounter dog walkers, let the baby hold a smooth stone. Point out new things to your child as you walk: a scurrying squirrel, insects buzzing around, a bird perched on a branch. The world of animals and nature is an exciting new experience to a baby.

Backyard discoveries

Spread a blanket in the backyard and let your baby observe nature from ground level. The feel of the grass, the rough bark of a tree, the perfumed smell of the garden will all be interesting. Lay back and look at the sky and the cloud formations together. Encourage touching as you explain what the baby is looking at and feeling. Nurse the baby outdoors under the shade of a tree, or let him practice rolling over and crawling from your spot on the blanket. Your infant will enjoy this mini-exploration in a safe and comfortable place just steps from the house.

As the baby becomes accustomed to outdoor experiences you can continue to explore nature further from home. Take a hike or spend an hour in the park, at the zoo or in a local botanical garden. If there's a pool near your home, go for a swim together. Slather your little one with protective sunscreen and add a hat, then dip in together with the baby securely in your arms. This is a new sensory experience for the infant: cool water on the skin, warm sunshine and the comfort of being held through it all lovingly in your arms where they feel safe.

Natural outdoor experiences should come in small doses for infants, so start slowly and keep your outings to a reasonably short time.

Quick tip

The right equipment speeds you on your explorations -- invest in a sturdy stroller or a front-view baby carrier.

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