Let's Go Outside Baby

Enjoying the outdoors with your baby this summer

by gina roberts-grey

When her second child was born, Nancy Keller of Round Lake Beach, IL wondered how she would balance playing outside with both her five year old and her five month old baby during the spring and summer. “I didn’t want to stay cooped up inside with the baby and wanted both kids to be able to enjoy being outside with me” explains Keller. As she struggled to strike a happy medium, this resourceful mom found that incorporating a few alternatives helps everyone enjoy the great outdoors. This summer you can also ensure your baby is not only having fun, but remains safe outside with a few helpful tips.

The yard is a wonderland

Use Mother Nature’s vibrant and scenic palette to teach your baby about shapes, colors and textures. Kenmore, NY early childhood development teacher Susan Chapman recommends associating items readily found outside with common colors or sizes to create a fun learning playground for your baby. “It’s never too early to teach that leaves are green, clouds are fluffy and white, dandelions are round, etc.” she urges.

When working with young children Chapman finds taking advantage of different locations beneficial. “We take children on a field trip to the park, but parents don’t have to go much further than their own yard or a neighbor’s yard to expose children to a variety of outdoor elements” explains Chapman. Select a few natural objects every day to introduce to your baby. Lounging on a blanket in your yard or while taking a stroll, your baby can feel ‘grainy’ sand, ‘cold’ water, ‘long, thin’ sticks and see the multi colored flowers and shrubs that are blooming.

Outdoor workouts

Maintaining good health and physical fitness is a growing concern among parents. Keller found that placing a yoga mat in a quiet and shady area of her yard offers both her and her children the chance to relax. “I can take a few minutes for myself while my baby plays in the grass with his blocks” she notes. You can also count out loud and show your baby the weeds you’ve pulled from the garden or all of the tomatoes growing on the vines to stimulate his mind while you both soak up summer fun.

Arrange patio furniture or spare boxes on a blanket in a grassy area of your yard. Forming a small maze where the two of you can play ‘crawl after the leader’ your baby will get physical activity while developing his ability to hide and search. You can also place small items or toys around the yard for your child to search for. Helping him crawl or cruise around to look for the items creates a fun exercise you both can enjoy.

Front yard fun

Moving activities traditionally performed inside to the outdoors accomplishes several tasks at once. Your baby can take a nap in his portable crib or stroller while you catch up on last winter’s scrap booking projects. Accompanied by your baby, simple chores such as preparing a peanut butter and jelly picnic or folding a load of white clothes done outdoors offers everyone a fresh perspective.

“We like to go outside to read a book before nap time” offers Arlene Danik of Batavia, IL. Taking her baby’s favorite blanket and book outside, Danik lets the soothing warmth of summer help relax her daughter before going inside to sleep. “Sometimes she even naps on a blanket in the shade while I read or balance the checkbook” Danik adds.

Strolling around with baby

Add an element of fun to pushing your baby around the yard, park or neighborhood by rotating the toys that are attached to your baby’s stroller. Alternating items helps them stay fresh and exciting to your child. He’ll appreciate the chance to play with a ‘new’ toy every couple of weeks as the two of you walk around your neighborhood.

You can also use his stroller as a mobile picnic table and feed him at the park, in the backyard or while stopping for a break along a nature trail. The chance to dine al fresco -- away from the distractions of a typically busy household offers the perfect opportunity for you to focus all your attention on your favorite subject – your baby!

Keeping your baby safe while enjoying the outdoors:

Liberally reapply sunscreen according to the bottle’s directions

Pack a hat, visor or sunglasses to add an extra element of sun protection

Beware of off-leash animals while taking a walk or playing in a non-fenced in yard.

Avoid mosquitos and other pesky critters by using an insect repellant suggested by your pediatrician during the day as well as in the evening.

Never leave baby unattended near water

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer who often writes on the subject of families and children.