To The Backyard & Beyond:
Babies Love the Great Outdoors

Rhythms of Our Day

There are certain habits that make home or running a daycare easier, and one of those things is using daily rhythms to structure our day for success.

Different than a schedule, a daily rhythm flows and is easily adjustable based on that day’s interests, unexpected events, and everyone in the home’s temperaments. While I share our daily rhythm here, this post explains why you should implement a daily rhythm. 

Rhythms are a concept taken from the Waldorf philosophy; the day is structured into periods of “breathing in” and “breathing out,” meaning that there are times that the child is encouraged to participate in a structured activity or routine, such as preparing lunch or listening to a story, before being encouraged to then have unstructured playtime (or independent work time) in his or her prepared environment.

Focusing on rhythm, and not a strict, scheduled structure, can allow for days to be creative and distinct, without creating upset or unpredictability. Rhythm can be integrated into travel and special events to ensure a more positive experience for parent and child.

The transitions between breaths are gentle and should follow the child’s cues whenever appropriate – watching for non-verbal communications from the child to either prolong, change up, or end an activity can help ensure that rhythm guides the day. For example, if your child is wriggling and not engaged in story time, we should reflect on what is missing for the child: is the tale of interest to the child? Are you simply reading or actively creating the story? Is there something in the environment that is distracting the child? Is there an activity the child would rather be doing, that would allow them to later focus on the story?

Rather than using a clock or timers (which, though they may have their place, many educators believe create tension in the room as both parties wait for the abrasive intrusion to jostle them to attention), instead we can use a subtle indicator such as a transitioning song, lighting a candle, or, using a gentle instrument such as wind-chimes to help change the mood and ease the transition.

Breaths out are equally as important as the breaths in, as it is during “rest” that we can really absorb and reflect on the information that we received during the activity, and because play in a prepared environment allows for sensory exploration, creativity, and engagement, amongst other benefits. If self-correcting learning materials (such as Montessori materials) are provided in the prepared environment, the child can freely explore those items as well.

Also, focusing on rhythm allows for parents to build freeplay into the day, as a natural occurrence. Learning is spread throughout the day, allowing the child to recover and engage as desired, while still ensuring that learning objectives are achieved within a realistic timeframe. This wonderfully allows parents to not feel that they must transition between “roles” during “homeschooling hours,” and instead just allows parents to facilitate learning activities just as they would facilitate bath time.

Quick Tips and ideas for outdoor play with your baby

Infants need interesting things to look at, as well as a variety of sounds, temperatures, and smells. Research shows that being outside gives them a more meaningful sensory experience than being indoors. Imagine the difference between lying on a blanket outside watching the flickering leaves of a tree, feeling the sunshine and the breeze, hearing a dog bark nearby and smelling freshly cut grass. Now contrast that to lying on a blanket in the house and looking up at a ceiling or mobile. The sensory experiences cannot be matched. Their senses are stimulated by vibrant colors, new scents, the attributes of temperature and weather, and the natural sounds like birds, bullfrogs and crickets. Nature is balanced just right for stimulating their senses. I love just hanging out with children outdoors and doing whatever peaks their interest for that day. If you can just go with the flow, the day will be a great adventure. H. M. Fales 

Outdoor Sensory play simply means to involve your senses (think touch, taste, smell, etc).

The park, the beach (or sandbox), and your backyard are all packed full of possibilities for sensory play. If you live in an apartment but that shouldn't stop you from using the small patch of grass that’s next to our parking lot. Babies don’t require a large space.

Here are simple tips for a nature walk or stroll:

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  1. Allow your baby to get close to the ground and examine natural details—different types of grass, bark, moss, leaves, stones, pinecones, and soil may catch their attention. Collect one of each item into a container or basket.

  2. Hunt around for some bugs! Talk about which insects crawl and which one’s fly.

  3. Look up at the sky and tell your baby about the weather and how it makes you feel (physically and emotionally).

  4. Trees are full of lessons—help your baby feel the texture of the trunk by placing your hand over theirs and run them along the bark and count the other trees around you together.

  5. Practice sniffing scents of flowers, grass, fruits, or berries in a garden if you have one.

If your child likes you to take photographs or create art outside, this is a great time to have them capture some of their observations for their Adventure Journal of the critter or other pond features such as plant life or the ripples on the water’s surface.

Keep it simple, allow for child focased play, allow for them to find what they want to be enthralled in.  Everything is new and their curiosity is boundless. Your job is simple: to observe and keep them safe.

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Wear them in a carrier when you want your hands to be free

Carriers are also beneficial to baby while they are facing outwards. You can entertain guest Now they can see, reach, grab, and hear so much going on around them. They’ll love taking in new sights while strapped right to mom or dad. Keep your baby facing you when when you are going out and want to keep strangers from touching and spreading illnesses to your baby.

Always keep a blanket or sheet with you

Bring your baby outside safely in the warm weather. Plan your trips to the park, beach, and backyard following these tips for fun-filled days.

If you can’t bring a portable play yard with you, always remember to have a blanket on hand. Keep it in your car for anytime you end up making a quick stop at a park or friend’s house.

This way, if you’re sitting outside, you can put the baby down anywhere and not have to worry about dirt or heat. You can read them a book or have them play with other toys. A large sheet should be a great size for a baby who is crawling around.

Bring your baby outside safely in the warm weather. Plan your trips to the park, beach, and backyard following these tips for fun-filled days.

Flowers, plants, and animals offer sensory rich learning opportunities

Exploring Nature With Your Baby

NOV 08, 2012

From the first hour of life, when a baby stares into the eyes of his new parents, he is learning all about this brave new world. Babies try to make sense of what they see, touch, taste, grab, hear, hold, and squeeze. Think of a baby clutching a hunk of ripe banana, slowly squeezing it, and watching in wonder as the yellow, creamy fruit slithers between his fingers. 

Babies are born primed to learn how the world of people and objects works. That is why they love exploring their outdoor surroundings. Every bug, animal, or bird that your baby sees is a brand-new experience — especially because babies spend so much time indoors. When at the park or in your yard, don't be surprised if your baby wants to touch a nice earthworm as she inspects the grass at the edge of her blanket. Many babies love to feel a caterpillar crawling on their arms. 

Natural experiences should come in doses that are understandable for your baby and in ways that keep your baby safe, of course. Babies are forever exploring, whether trying to poke a finger into an electrical socket or attempting to tip over a stand so that they can pull at and maybe taste the shiny green leaves of a plant. Babies are often unaware of dangers, and toddlers can climb with agility and fearlessness into hazardous situations.

Opportunities to experience nature up close stimulate infant senses, provide a sense of loveliness for him to appreciate, and encourage you to label objects — flowers, plants, and animals — and to explain their characteristics using as many of the senses as you can.

Technology has made its way into every aspect of our lives.  Children see less and less of nature and the outdoors and more and more of touchscreens and televisions. The following suggestions provide great ways for you and your child to safely experience the outdoors and will lead to rich learning experiences.

Observe animals in their natural habitat. 
As you walk with your baby in a pack on your back, point out sounds she can listen to, such as a bird chirping or crow cawing at the top of a tree. Point out the insects crawling, the doggies running around sniffing, and the squirrels climbing up trees. As your baby begins to use some language, she may call your attention to a bird flying up and settling on a tree branch. Rejoice with her excitement. The world of animals and birds is a new kind of discovery for her. 

Parent Info
Spying on Squirrels and More with Ranger Rick

For more about other animals, use theTreehugger Site

Encourage touching. 
In the park or your backyard, you can introduce your baby to a great variety of nature's textures. Invite him to feel the grass and pinecones; to touch smooth, bumpy, and grainy textures.              

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Explore a creek or river. Exploring a river, looking for water critters, catching tadpoles, finding special rocks or even arrowheads was a favorite pastime I shared with my Dad. Kids require little direction when it comes to this kind of fun.  Give them a river, some water shoes and set them free.

Enjoy Bird Watching Together. Watch birds through binoculars, build a feeder or birdhouse, or just sit on the porch (or behind a window) or on a blanket and listen. 

Try to guess which bird is singing that song. Explain male and female colors.  In the spring, leave some scraps of material or yarn for the birds to find and use in making their nests. In the winter, drive through areas where there are trees to see the nests they have built.

Get Outside & Connect: Roll Down a Hill

Do you remember rolling down grassy hills as a child? I sure do. I remember rejoicing with my brothers and neighborhood friends whenever we found the perfect spot to go for a roll. We laughed, we squealed with joy, we connected with nature, and we helped our bodies develop properly. What could be better than that?

Children need to move and play outside on a regular basis in order to develop healthy sensory systems. Rolling down hills is a great way to get outside, connect, laugh, and have fun. It is also the perfect activity for the developing sensory system. Get outside and go for a roll down a hill today!

Play in the Leaves: Who doesn’t love jumping in a huge pile of leaves? I know its a fantastic way for the whole family to get involved

Jump in Puddles: I don’t know about you but just the simple act of jumping in puddles can be a blast for any kid. It is bound to bring on the smiles and the laughs, as well.

Feed Ducks Many duck species are as at home on the water as they are on land and in the air. Ducks have two unique features that make them such good swimmers—webbed feet and waterproof feathers. From whistles and coos to yodels and grunts, ducks have a lot of different things to say. If you're wondering what to feed a baby duck without starter feed, consider some fruits and vegetables: cut them very small.

For more about ducks and other animals, use the
Treehugger Site 

Start Nature Treasure Boxes:

Babies and toddlers usually really enjoy playing with random loose parts. You can make them a nature-themed bin full of all sorts of natural treasures for them to build and play with.

Consider filling a small tub with smaller containers that they need to open and explore and fill and empty. Think shells, pretty stones, pieces of driftwood, maybe some paint brushes and small scoops too.

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For an added task, give them some water to paint these treasures and watch how their colors and textures change.

Visit the zoo. 
Wheel your stroller close to an exhibit and point out what your baby is looking at, whether it's a seal splashing in the water or a monkey swinging from a branch. You have been reading animal stories to your little one from early on. Now, at the zoo, he gets to see all those creatures that were in the storybooks. Let your toddler tell you that he is watching Horton the elephant lift up his trunk! 

Stroll through a garden. 
Flowers and plants offer your baby sensory and aesthetic pleasures. She will be sensitive to, and admiring of, the colors, sights, and sounds. Trees, flowers, and plants provide opportunities for talking about rough bark, delicate blossoms, and perfume smells. Some flowers are lovely to look at but don't have a smell when you sniff them. You can also pick up your baby to show her a butterfly nosing about to get nectar. (A butterfly bush in your garden will attract more of these beautiful "flying flowers!")

Create a garden sensory bin:

It was a great way for him to get a different perspective on everyday items from our backyard. With the garden sensory bin, he explored a lot of other things first, but then, it was time to SPLASH 🙂.

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Numerous studies point to the benefits of spending time in nature. Regular exposure to nature reduces stress, increases physical and emotional well-being, and can even contribute to the development of empathy.

In the natural world, children can take risks and freely explore. They discover their physical limitations and potential.
They learn to slow down and observe the world, taking note of patterns and changes. 

Urban areas present unique nature opportunities for families, such as mature landscaping, established parks, and community programs. Consider finding the hidden nature. Children are adept at finding nature in unexpected places. From the plants growing in sidewalk cracks to the bugs under rocks, take a cue from your child and challenge yourself to discover hidden beauty.

Not only will you nurture the love of nature in your children or grandchildren, but you will also strengthen your relationship with them through quality time spent together. Let nature be a foundation for wonderful memories that will be cherished and remembered long after you’re gone.

Introducing your child to all aspects of nature will help them with language development and will give her an appreciation for the needs of other creatures and a sense of pride at helping wildlife flourish.

Enjoy these experiences together!


Activities for babies don’t need to be complex or overly planned. After all, everything is a first experience for a baby! At this stage, when they are processing so much new information about the world, people, and objects around them, they interpret everything through the sensory motor system. 

For this simple activity we took a rug outside and, together, laid down underneath some trees. I lay next to her and looked up and around to get a sense of her vantage point. How amazing to see things from a different perspective!

The light made some beautiful patterns through the leaves and branches of the trees around us, and nearby bushes and leaves swayed in the wind. These also made a lovely, calm sound and the whole setting was perfect for quiet observation together. Big sisters played around us while we lay there, and periodically brought over flowers, pinecones, and leaves that they had found which they really wanted to share with baby Bean!

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We are on holiday now so these sights and sounds are different to those we would find back home in the garden or park in our big city. But even at home in the garden, the first experience of toes and fingers in the soft grass are not to be overlooked! How about feeling the damp sand at the beach or sand pit, trailing little fingers in water or over smooth pebbles, deliberately standing in the wind, going out at night to see how dark it is and look at the stars together!

They all lead to wonderful enrichment for little babies and are so valuable as a way to learn together about the world we live in.

You can lay your babies on their belly on a blanket or sit them up on a blanket in the grass. Help them to explore their new environment by touching and feeling all the outdoor things:

  • grass

  • sand

  • pinecones

  • smooth rocks

  • rough rocks

  • twigs

  • flowers

  • Leaves

Just make sure you maintain close supervision, so they don’t put these items in their mouth. Also, start building language and vocabulary by talking to your baby about these things that they are seeing, hearing, and feeling.

Your baby is learning so much at this age and taking in everything you are telling him. Here are some ideas of ways to talk about the outside to your baby:

                          What they can feel:

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  • a smooth rock

  • blades of grass

  • a crunchy or soft leaf

  • warm sun on their skin

  • the breeze and wind

  • the hot ground

What they can hear:

  • cars and trucks honking and driving by

  • birds chirping

  • wind from the trees 

  • dogs barking

  • bugs buzzing

What they can see:

  • blue sky, green grass, yellow flowers

  • car, house, ball, bike

  • butterfly, birds, bugs

  • other animals and pets, people

Playing Safely Notes

Avoid Large Crowds

While it is fine to go out in the yard or to a quiet park, you'll want to try your best to avoid places where there are crowds for the first several weeks of your baby's life.

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The younger she is, the more immature her immune system, and the more susceptible she is to pick up germs from other people and nearby coughs, sneezes, and unclean hands. Once your baby reaches 2 to 3 months, her immune system will mature significantly, and you won't need to be as concerned.

Babies are irresistible, which means strangers may want to touch and play with her—leaving you with less control over what she's exposed to. So, keep that in mind before you head to the mall or the local swimming pool. A good way to protect a baby from strangers' germ-filled hands is to wear baby in a sling or carrierfacing you. When friends and family want to hold your baby, insist that they wash their hands first.

When You Get Home

When you get home from an outing, be sure to wash your newborn's hands, especially if anyone has touched her. It would also be a great idea to wash your own hands, to avoid transferring anything from yourself to the baby. Some parents feel better giving their baby a bath after coming home from excursions, especially shopping trips to the grocery store or mall where the baby may have been exposed to germs.

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Protect Your Baby from the Elements

Whether it is winter or summer, facing the elements without the right protection is never a good idea. Here's what you need to know for the different seasons of the year.

In Winter

It is perfectly safe to take the baby outside in the winter, provided she is bundled up properly (as discussed above), the temperature isn't too cold, and you keep the trip brief. Sometimes babies need a few gasps of fresh air and natural light, especially if they are colicky.

Use caution in cold weather. Babies are at an increased risk of hypothermia, due to their still-developing nervous system, minimal amount of subcutaneous fat, and an inability to shiver to bring up their body temperature. If the weather is freezing outside, you may still take the baby out for quick trips out, provided the wind chill factor is above 20°F. Do not stay out for longer than a few minutes.

In Spring

Spring is a wonderful time of year to have a newborn. Winter's cold has started to thaw, and the days are getting longer. This is an ideal time to enjoy a walk or trip to the playground with older kids.

Spring days can be deceptive though. A bright and clear day can quickly give way to gusts of wintry air, or a sudden rain shower. Always check the weather before taking the baby out in the spring and be prepared with an umbrella for the stroller, extra blankets, and a change of clothes in case you get caught in an unexpected downpour.

In Summer

In summer, you want to protect your baby from the sun, excessive heat, and mosquitoes. On hot summer days, try to avoid going on in the heat of the day, and instead try to time outdoor activities for the morning or late afternoon. If the thermometer reaches 80°F, head inside.

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Babies under 6 months of age should never use sunscreen, so you'll need to keep the baby in the shade and use a sun hat. When taking a walk or going to the park, use a stroller with shade and check to make sure the baby isn't in direct sunlight at any time.

If your area has a lot of mosquitoes, you may want to use a mesh net to cover the stroller or pack-n-play in the back yard but be sure the mesh is away from your baby's face.

In Fall

Just like springtime, autumn can be a great time to have a baby. The temperature is moderate, with lots of sunny days and colorful leaves to enjoy. However, the weather can change quickly on fall days as well.

In early fall, chilly mornings can give way to summer-like afternoons, while in late autumn, bright sunny days can have a deceptive winter chill. Layering is key in fall weather, so be sure to have extra blankets with you to keep your newborn warm outdoors.

It’s important for your baby to experience different environments. And if you’re feeling cooped up indoors, it’s time to get outside!

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Going for a walk is easy, but what else can you do to help your baby safely explore the outdoors, even amidst Take a look at these seven ideas.

Observe the natural world. 

Wherever you happen to be — your yard, a park, or another outdoor location — you’re sure to be surrounded by many different plants, animals, insects, and more. As you walk around (or sit and observe), hold your baby or place him or her in a carrier in a way that makes it easy to look around. Go out in different types of weather, too (dressed appropriately, of course). This will help your baby experience changes in the environment — sometimes it’s sunny and warm, other times it’s cloudy and cool.

Talk about what you see. 

Point out everything you see, and call things by name. When you see a flower, point to it and say, “flower!” Your baby probably isn’t old enough to say the words you’re saying, but he or she will begin to associate objects with their names. Spark their interest using three of the senses as you draw their attention towards the world about them.

Explore different textures. 

When you’re outside, there are so many different things to touch, from smooth rocks and flower petals to coarse gravel and rough sand. Help your baby (safely) explore these textures to get a feel for the properties of different objects.

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Change the scenery on your walks. 

If you go on a daily — or weekly — walk, consider stepping out of your comfort zone. If you normally walk around your own neighborhood, branch out to a local park, garden, or zoo. Your baby will have a whole new set of things to look at — a variety of plants, interesting animals, and more. Just make sure to bring your own mask along, and maintain a safe distance from other people at all times.

Discover your own backyard. 

Take a blanket outside and lie in the grass with your baby, or set your baby up to watch you plant a garden. If you already have a garden, walk around with your baby, smell the flowers, look at the different plants, and observe the insects that might be around them (take care, though, to stay away from bees, wasps, and the like).

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Have an outdoor picnic. 

You can do this in your own backyard, too, or you can venture out to a park, the beach, or anywhere else you can comfortably lay a blanket down outside while also keeping your distance from other people. Sit together and look around at everything around you as you eat.

Set up water play. 12 Ideas for Baby Waterplay

Messier activities, like water play, can be fun to take outside. Grab some plastic cups, balls, utensils, sponges, and other fun, waterproof objects — making sure, of course, that nothing is a choking hazard. Fill a bowl, bin, pail, or kiddie pool with water, and help your baby play with the different objects…fill them up and empty them, see what floats and what sinks, and more. And be sure to supervise your little one at all times.

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Whether you head to a local park or go out in your own backyard, it’s important to get outside with your baby. And the activities you do together can be simple!


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Being outside is probably a totally new experience for your infant, especially if they were born this past winter or fall and haven’t been outside yet.
Don’t be afraid to let them get a little dirty! They wash up just fine.

Enjoy a walk and just talk softly to your baby

Walks are great for both parents and babies. You both need the fresh air if you’ve been cooped up in the house too long. Pop your baby in a stroller or carrier and take them out to enjoy the sights.

Make sure you point out all the things they will be seeing while outside. From houses and cars to trees and birds, your little one is taking in all of his surroundings. Even though he may not be speaking just yet, he is still understanding a lot more than you may think.
The best way for your baby to learn new vocabulary and language is to see the real world that we live in.

Here are some ideas for walks you can bring your baby on:

  • Go to the farmers market and point out the fruit and vegetables

  • Hiking trails and point out the plants and animals

  • A park with paths and point out other people, kids, and playgrounds

  • Outdoor mall or shopping center and point out people and shopping items

  • Walk the boardwalk and point out the ocean, sand, and birds

  • Trails around a lake or reservoir and point out the ducks and water

Outdoor Play

Outdoor play ideas and activities for babies.

5 Ideas for Playing Outdoors with a Baby –
Barefeet on the Dashboard

Bubbles With Baby Pink Oatmeal
Outdoor Sensory Play for Baby ~ The Realistic Mama
Bubbles and Color in the Play Pool ~ Learn Play Imagine

Exploring Puddles ~ Bambini Travel
Container Planting ~ Bambine Travel
15 Ways to Play Outdoors with Babies ~
Angelique Felix
Sand Slime ~ Growing a Jeweled Rose

10 ways your little one is learning as you explore and walk…

  • In the snuggly, your newborn will feel your heart rate increase as you walk briskly, fondly reminding her of that time not so long ago when she was so closely connected to you in every way. She’ll love the sensory input of your heartbeat.

  • Babies really enjoy looking at all the new sights when you go outside – everything is different! The colors, the movement, the moving light. It’s a whole new world visually!

  • As you walk your baby using a snuggly or infant carrier, they’ll enjoy the rhythm of your movements. This vestibular input helps coordinate movement between the eyes, head and body, helping your baby develop a sense of balance and visual-spacial perception.

  • When we go outside, the big, open air just feels different and elicits interest as your baby looks around and takes it all in. It’s old hat to you, the smell of rain or someone grilling in the backyard. But for your baby, it may be their first time to ever experience that!

  • Sounds are totally different outside. Cars going by, birds chirping, airplanes, dogs barking, lawnmowers – all these sounds give you a chance to talk to your baby and give words to describe what they’re hearing. “Do you hear Cooper barking? I think he hears us walking by on the sidewalk. He’s saying hello!” As you narrate what your baby is experiencing, you’re helping with language development.

  • Neural connections are different when we go outside. Sensory stimulation is less rapid, more fluid, allowing a ‘pause’ of sorts. This enhances brain development and can even affect a child’s behavior (see reference below)

  • Toddlers and older children who walk on their own have lots of chances to discover and learn as they walk around the block. There’s countless opportunities for physical development as they walk keeping rhythm with your steps, jump over cracks on the sidewalk, run ahead, hop instead of walk and all the other beautiful ways children naturally “practice” their emerging physical skills.

  • And of course, as they walk, they’ll stop to look at bugs and other critters along the way, picking up sticks and other stuff, smelling flowers, noticing patterns along the way. All these ‘treasures’ support math and science in a spontaneous, self-discovery method of learning.

  • Walking with your child is not a fast process, like the brisk walk you take to get a little exercise. Slow down, allowing time to inspect storm drains, weeds in sidewalk cracks and other fascinating things along the way. This natural intellectual curiosity is how your child takes in new information and draws conclusions about the world. Allow lots of time for pauses along the way.

Prepare a Baby-Safe Backyard for Family Fun

How to Baby Proof Your Yard

You’ll want to begin, of course, by making your backyard space as safe as possible. Remove obstructions and lock up or fence off swimming pools, lawn equipment, poisonous plants, and other hazards. Make sure railings and gates on balconies, porches, and decks are both sturdy and up to date—slats should be less than 3.5 inches apart or covered with a strong mesh or another safety device. Then add a few low-cost, high-engagement items, inspired by the ideas here, to create a kid-friendly zone for your outdoor explorer. Try one or two suggestions to start, and then switch it up occasionally, depending on your child’s mood, the weather, your time, and budget.

Stimulate your babies and toddlers with these outdoor ideas for Learning through Landscapes…

Young children have an innate urge to learn about the world around them, and the outdoors offers a never-ending range of exciting opportunities. They can satisfy their love of movement when outside, improving muscle strength, lung capacity and bone density along the way, as well as developing important physical skills such as coordination. A rich outdoor environment offers the chance to explore and investigate, as well as encourages language and communication skills.

From the minute you open the doors or start the ritual of finding the correct clothing and footwear, babies, and toddlers’ sense that change – and the potential for adventure – is in the air, so make the most of their enthusiasm by developing your outside space…

Stimulating senses

Babies are highly responsive to outdoor stimuli. Sound moves in a different way outside – changing naturally with the wind or variations in air pressure. Until they’re about six months old, babies can differentiate sounds much more effectively than adults; they’re much more receptive to bird sounds, for instance, and as a result they’ll love being outdoors. Light also behaves differently. It’s changed by the weather, filtered by trees and alters throughout the day. Visit spaces near trees or create a place where voile or chiffon can hang – this will filter the sun and move with touch or the wind.

Smell and taste can also be stimulated outdoors. Babies on the move make the most of any opportunity to pull themselves up to standing. An effective way to encourage this behavior while offering exciting sensory experiences is to install sturdy low-level planters filled with strongly scented herbs such as lavender or rosemary, colorful summer plants or edibles like strawberries or redcurrants.

And don’t forget touch – another key sense for helping babies to learn about the world. Outdoors, they can lie on the grass and feel it tickling their skin or experience the textural differences between hard and soft surfaces.

Tailored for toddlers

Once babies are toddling, they’ll benefit from varied landscapes. Small hills, tunnels and trails encourage activities such as crawling, rolling, stretching, and running. Tires, ladders, stumps, and planks provide opportunities for climbing, and low walls and rails at various heights allow babies to pull themselves up to standing. Textured pathways (bark, wood chip, gravel, pebbles) not only add visual interest but also sharpen the mobility skills required for managing uneven ground.

Natural materials such as sand and soil provide fantastic opportunities for exploration, investigation, and manipulation. Smaller sandpits offer great opportunities for digging, while larger areas of sand allow toddlers to use their entire bodies to feel the texture. Children can extend their play to a digging area filled with soil. Here they can pretend to plant and dig up vegetables (try providing onions or potatoes for this activity).

Water is fascinating for young children due to sounds that can be created with it and because it causes reflection. It also presents an opportunity for them to explore the qualities of the above materials, by mixing – and getting grubby! Also think about resources that support exploration of the weather, such as streamers, windsocks, umbrellas, and wind chimes.

Tip: Nooks and crannies will entice crawling and toddling youngsters, so try creating natural dens under low-hanging branches. Alternatively, supply large cardboard boxes or lengths of fabric attached to fences. Cushions and blankets help create cozy nooks for snuggling into with adults and other children for stories, songs and games. Adding interesting items such as mirrors, fir cones, sponges, large buttons, toy animals, etc. will stimulate exploration and conversation.

Learning through Landscapes offers a range of services to support outdoor learning and play in the early years. Its membership resources and publications provide a regular supply of fresh activity ideas, and it offers on-site support through advisory visits and half-day, full-day or twilight training sessions for nurseries.

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Enjoying Nature's Forest Together

Being in nature is great for us in so many ways but being in the forest is very special.

Spending time in the forest has been found to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger, strengthen our immune system and boost overall wellbeing. Wow!!!

There is a higher concentration of oxygen in the forest, according to Japanese medical doctor and researcher Qing Li, compared to an urban setting. Exposure to the plant chemicals, that are part of their defense system, has measurable health benefits for us. Benefits such as a reduction in physiological stress, lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Evergreen forests are particularly beneficial for our health. You sleep better when you spend time in a forest, even when you don’t increase the amount of physical activity you do. It is simply enough to just be in the forest to take in the health benefits. Nothing additional is required! 

Bring your baby outside safely in the warm weather. Plan your trips to the park, beach, and backyard following these tips for fun-filled days.

Flowers, plants, and animals offer sensory rich learning opportunities

The why and how of exploring nature with babies and infants:

It’s easy to explore nature with infants.  Get them into some appropriate clothing for the weather, and head out the door.  Nature is a perfectly balanced sensory experience for children.  They’ll be able to take in the muted colours and natural sounds without feeling overwhelmed.   If you’re holding them against you for these experiences, then all the better as they are also being comforted and Nature is a “perfectly balanced sensory experience” providing just the right amount of stimulation and opportunities for babies and children to learn and grow. (Angela Hanscom, 2016)connected to you at the same time.

The phrase sensory-rich implies that most or all of our senses are being stimulated.  So, watching a television show about exploring the woods stimulates our sight and hearing.  However, the actual activity of walking in the woods stimulates all our senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, movements, and awareness.

For a baby, a simple sensory-rich experience happens every time you cuddle and rock on the porch.  They feel your closeness, the gentle rocking, the sun or breeze on their skin, and hear your singing and the sounds around them.  They can smell you and nature, see your face and the surrounding shapes and colors, and maybe taste and sense milk or fingers in their mouth.

Full sensory integration (or learning) best happens in a sensory-rich environment.  This means that the brain uses input from the senses (touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste), muscles, and joints in order to accurately process information about the body and outside world.  For example, the mind and body understand the activity of climbing through, touching the bark with hands and feet, feeling the muscle strain, hearing the leaves, smelling the wood, and so forth.  This is a completely different experience from just looking at a tree, reading a story about climbing trees, or joining along with actions when television characters are climbing trees.

 Why do I suggest these sensory-rich experiences happen outdoors?

Being outside is a different sensation for body and mind than being indoors.  When outside children will feel the air or sun on their skin, and hear birds or sounds of the city. They’ll feel the different textures of grass, rock, and pavement, and the smells… everything from hotdog stands, to rose bushes, to cow poop (depending where you live).  But what’s most important is that their mind and body are experiencing all these sensations at once for the benefits of full sensory integration ( or optimal learning).

Another benefit to outdoor time is that nature rarely overwhelms the senses.  Children may have difficulty understanding all that is happening and become anxious, frustrated, or upset when overwhelmed with too much sensory input.  Examples of overwhelming environments might be a noisy play center, a busy colorful classroom, or a loud and crowded restaurant.

baby sitting on a sandy beach with a bucket and shovel in hand

“Nature doesn’t bombard children with too much sensory information at once, which creates a sense of chaos and confusion.”  Instead nature is a “perfectly balanced sensory experience” providing just the right amount of stimulation and opportunities for babies and children to learn and grow. (Angela Hanscom, 2016)

Your child’s mind has an easier time learning from sensory experiences in a calm environment like the outdoors.  If they are surrounded by overwhelming colors, sounds, and visual distractions, their minds have a harder time learning (processing).  Therefore, babies and young children benefit less from whatever they happen to be playing with if the surrounding environment is too overwhelming. 

Providing the best baby stimulation for sensory development

If you take anything from this article, I hope it is this:  young children and babies learn and develop best when offered varied experiences in the outdoor world.

Exploring nature with babies can be as easy or as involved as you’d like to make it from an overnight hiking trip to sitting in the backyard.  (For more tips and advice on exploring nature with children you can read more here: exploring nature with babies)

For busy babies who love to put everything in their mouths, you may want to hold them in your arms when outside or lie them on a blanket.  Then, proceed to present them with safe items they can explore with their hands (and mouths).  This texture exploration increases the chances that children will welcome various textures of foods when they are older.

When your infants are a little older, they can lie on the grass and explore to their liking.  You’ll want to stay close, but try to refrain from interrupting or directing their play.  Allow them to explore at their own pace.

Often just the natural outdoors have enough for young children to occupy themselves with.  They’ll be happy playing with rocks, leaves, sticks, and other found treasures.  If you find they need an activity, provide them with just a few items.  A pail and shovel (even a bowl and spoon) can lead to a lengthy play at the park, beach, or in the garden.

Here’s a very simple list of sensory rich outdoor activities:

  • Explore a garden, greenhouse, or park.  For variety, try community gardens, botanical gardens, and provincial, state, or national parks.

  • Lift up babies so they can play with leaves and smell the blossoms of trees.  Young children will enjoy throwing a ball up into the leaves or being chased around tree trunks.

  • Spend time in areas with lots of birds or butterflies, or out in the countryside by a horse coral or ranch.

  • Dangle babies’ bare feet into water or over the grass.  Let older children play barefoot on the grass, in the mud, and shallow waters.

  • Take your little one out for walks in the stroller or baby carrier.  For an even deeper sensory rich experience, carry your baby in your arms.

  • Bring your rocker outside, have your meals on the porch.  Even consider putting your baby’s bassinet outside for nap time.

Try to challenge yourself to do one or more of these things each and every day.

Remember this:

The natural outdoor environment provides young babies and children with the perfect amount and variety of sensory stimulation. 

Every moment children play outside is time spent growing and developing their minds and bodies.

  Do this often enough and children will have ample opportunity for sufficient nurturing and learning.

Growing Up Outdoors

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Whenever you can arrange outdoor experiences for your little ones, know that you are helping them experience another dimension of living - far different from indoor spaces. So, give them windows on new worlds - visit a park, zoo, flower garden, or a duck pond, or even stroll to the corner store.

Nurturing With Nature

Seeing and smelling - such pleasing experiences for infants outdoors. In mild weather, be sure to push strollers to places where babies can see, touch, and smell flowering plants. They want to feel the rough bark of a tree, the soft brush of wild grasses or grains of sand and explore the many textures of large stones and rocks. You can guide this sensory journey as you help them to notice their natural surroundings, like the gently swaying leaves in a summery tree.

If possible, consider landscaping your outdoors with a flowering hedge of perfumed jasmine to delight babies' sense of smell. And on a warm summer day, babies who sit well relish the experience of a shallow wading pool, where they can splash in a few inches of water while you cheer on their discovery of wet versus dry. Be sure babies wear hats and have sunscreen on exposed skin.

2 Months

At this age, you can lay your child on a blanket outdoors. If you’re a seasoned parent or daring

(which I wasn’t when my Baby was this age!), try laying him on the bare ground. Put him on his back to stare up at the sky, trees, and birds, or put him on his belly with some nature items in front of him to try to view. Wear your baby in a carrier while you go for a hike or take a walk with your child while he’s nestled in his stroller. 

Here’s what two-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

  • Babies start turning head toward sounds. Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance. A natural setting is a great place to discover sounds-- it's quiet enough that sounds like bird calls, rustling of leaves, and running water are discernible but not overwhelming. This is also a fun age to play with light: duck in and out of shadows and watch the sun flicker through leaves or bounce off water. Everything is completely new, and watching your child discover these sensations for the first time is a beautiful thing! 

  • Begins to act bored (fussy) if activity doesn’t change. Keep moving for a change of scenery. This is the age when my baby started to LOVE being outdoors—there is so much to see, hear, and feel. Let your child feel the slight breeze on his face or the sun on his head, and let this sensation change for your child as you walk through different environments. 

  • Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy. Try tummy time outdoors. Place nature items in front of your baby to encourage him to build those muscles. If he’s resistant, like My Baby was, put him on your chest as you lay down on the grass for some parent-child outdoor bonding. 

4 Months

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At four months or when your baby is able to hold his head up steadily (between 4-6 months

generally), your child is ready to face outward in your baby carrier, such as the Ergo 360 (our favorite). We tried this for around 5 months, and My Baby LOVED it. It’s a whole new way for them to see the world. This is also when your child can sit with assistance, such as in your lap or in a Bumbo seat. Although it is certainly not recommended by pediatric physical therapists, we used our borrowed Bumbo for short periods of time, including sitting outside in our yard.

Here’s what four-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors: 

  • Copies sounds that are heard. Draw attention to sounds you hear by mimicking them yourself. Name the animal that made them to help your child begin to associate language with concrete items. 

  • Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it. Can hold and shake a toy. This is a particularly great time to begin to lay nature items out around your baby for him to manipulate and explore: rocks, pinecones, flowers, grass, bugs, seeds, etc. Be aware that it’s also prime time for oral exploration to begin! Pro tip: if you’re lucky/unlucky enough to have a pacifier user on your hands, pop the paci in your child’s mouth before providing him with items to explore. (That’s my two cents; feel free to let your child put items in his mouth if that’s your parenting style! Judgment-free zone over here!) 

  • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance. Visit the same outdoor environments frequently to build familiarity. Name the items you see and point out some of the same things each time you visit. Point out birds, planes, and critters that make noise, and watch them as they move. Point them out and follow them. When you hear something, stop to investigate what it is. Think aloud: "What was that noise?" or "Why did that tree move?" Then, together search for it. Look for the bird that tweeted or the squirrel that rustled the leaves. This lays the foundation for encouraging curiosity!

Wike Mom and Wike Baby blowing dandelion seeds

6 Months

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This is one of my favorite stages—your baby is becoming more and more fun! His personality is beginning to shine through, and he likes to play. Spending time outdoors together is a great way to bond, which is true at every stage, but it’s becoming even more fun for both of you at this point in your child’s development. 

Here’s what six-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors: 

  • Likes to play with others, especially parents. Tummy time with your child on your belly while you lay on the grass, coupled with giving him an “airplane” ride (or pterodactyl ride, be creative!), can be ridiculously fun. 

  • Responds to sounds by making sounds. Listen for nature sounds and mimic them. You may find your child mimicking them (or you), as well. 

  • Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure. While walking with your child forward-facing in a carrier, try doing gentle hops or twirls along the way. Spinning, even with your child attached to you in a carrier, develops your child's vestibular system, which is responsible for balance, coordination and skills like head and trunk control and rolling. Your child’s understanding of object permanence is developing, so hide behind a tree and pop out to see your friends or have them do the same to you. Bounce and sing songs. What makes your child squeal with delight? Keep doing that! 

  • Looks around at things nearby. There is SO much to see outside. My Baby always calmed down outside because she was taking in everything there is to see, feel, and hear! 

  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach. When doing tummy time outside, place items just out of your child’s reach to motivate him to move. 

  • Begins to sit without support. Break out your bubbles! When your child can sit and likes to reach for things, blowing bubbles begins to be super fun!

9 Months

Baby playing with rock, Photo by Monica, on Instagram @mamanonthetrail

Around nine months is when your child may begin to show curiosity. In my opinion, curiosity is one of the most exciting things about childhood! Nurturing our children’s natural curiosities is one of the important things we can do for their cognitive development. 

Here’s what nine-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors: 

  • Uses fingers to point at things. When your child points at things while on a walk, name the item and follow his finger to get close up and touch the item (if possible). You’ll be teaching your child how to follow his curiosity. 

  • Watches the path of something as it falls. Leaves, snow, seeds, flower petals, rain: there’s something falling from the sky in every season. Take moments of time to stop and simply watch gravity in action with your child. 

  • Looks for things he sees you hide. We played some epic hide ‘n’ seek with Dad behind trees while hiking at this stage. While sitting on the grass, you can also hide rocks (avoid rocks that are choking sized!) under leaves or cover items with grass or sand. 

  • Puts things in mouth. As in everything. If you’re lucky/unlucky enough to still have a pacifier user on your hands, you can use it as a plug to keep your child from exploring nature items with his mouth. On the other hand, if you know something is safe for consumption, your child is eating table food in the home, and you know your child has no allergies, it could be a fun time to have him taste edible plants. Perhaps you’re into foraging or simply have an herb or vegetable garden. Use your discretion! 

  • Crawls, pulls to stand, sits without support, and stands holding on. Your baby is on the move! Find safe outdoor spaces for your child to practice these skills. Remember that “clean dirt” (soil without chemicals) is healthy and comes off in the bath! This is also a time when your child may begin to play with push toys—why not bring them outside? 

1 Year Old

Wike Baby crawling on the snow

At one year, your child increasingly interacts with the world around him. Hopefully he is stronger now, so you can be outside experiencing the elements in rain, shine, or even snow. If you haven’t yet put your baby on your back while walking about or hiking, try it now. At one year, My Baby loved being on my back while snowshoeing, and she especially loved being pulled in a sled on the snow. This is also the time when your child may begin to be even more mobile; embrace it and let him build his skills on the varying terrain outdoors. 

Here’s what one-year olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

  • Explore things in different ways, like shaking, banging, and throwing. While hiking with your child on your back, pass things such as dandelions, cattails, or sticks back to your baby to hold and explore. Stand along the shore together and toss rocks into the water. Show your child how two sticks or two rocks knock together to make a sound. 

  • Look at the right picture when it’s named. If you’ve been naming what you see outdoors since he was tiny, now he may be able to find an item (such as a flower or bird) when you say the word. Vocalize interesting things you see using the name (such as, “Look at the beautiful flower!” or “Do you see the pretty bird?” without pointing and follow your child’s gaze as he interprets your words. 

  • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container. My Baby happily did this for hours on end. Bring a small bucket or bag with you on your outdoor adventure. When you locate a place with rocks or small sticks, show your child how to put them into the bucket. Watch as he then takes them out and puts them back in again. Over. And over. And over again! 

  • Pokes with index finger. Encourage this! Poking at trees and feeling their different types of bark can be an interesting sensory experience for a one-year-old. Build oral language by naming the textures he feels. 

  • Pull up to stand. May take a few steps on own. May stand alone. As soon as your child starts to crawl and walk, let him experience different terrain. Walking on grass, sand, or snow outside is much different from the hardwood floors inside. You cannot replicate outdoor terrain indoors, and the outdoor terrain will help your child naturally develop balance, core strength, and spatial awareness. Allowing your child to walk outdoors without shoes is a physical and occupational therapist suggested activity that supports your child's development of balance, sensory processing, and proper muscle development in the feet.

Playing with Stick in Water, Photo by Gaby, on Instaram @gabythompsonn

18 Months

Trail Baby navigating along Rock Formation, Photo by Emily, on Instagram @hiking.home

This is just about where My Baby is right now and let me tell you how fun she is at this stage! She is able to engage herself in free outdoor play, she loves to climb, and she’s beginning imaginative play. She wants to walk on her own, but we don’t get too far while hiking because her goals are different from mine. At 18 months, letting your child take the lead outdoors should be priority number one.

Here’s what eighteen-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

  • Likes to hand things to others as play. Let your child explore nature items he comes across. When he hands something to you, such as a stick, thank him, hold it, and hand it back. Engage in play by handing him things you find as well. As always, name the items with which you interact in full sentences to promote language growth. 

  • Follows 1-step verbal commands without gestures. Practice this when you get ready to go outside by telling your child to get his socks. Then tell him to get his shoes. Then tell him to get his jacket. When you’re outdoors, there’s plenty of opportunity to use 1-step commands during play. “May I have the stick please?” “Walk over here.” “Look at that bird!” 

  • Play simple pretend experiences, such as feeding a doll. This can be a good time to bring out the mud kitchen! You can fashion one yourself using old wood pallets, visit a nature play area or even a sandbox nearby, or simply bring some bowls and spoons outside for playtime. Finding natural items to put into your concoction is part of the fun. Remember that this is also the age when children follow 1-step demands, so be mindful if you stir up a beautiful dish of sand, crushed leaves, and grass and you say, “This is delicious! Try it!” Your child may actually take a taste! Not that I know from experience… 

  • Explores alone but with parents close by. I can get so much yard work done now! She happily plays in the sandbox, picks up sticks around the yard, or goes down the slide on her own—as long as I’m nearby. I put a fort out in the yard for her to play in, and she loves bringing things inside, sitting in there for a while, and then coming out for more things. I know someone with a child this age who actually reads a book under a tree while her son plays on his own. Milk it, Mama. 

  • Says several single words. Engage in conversation every time he says a word that corresponds with what he sees in order to encourage his language. If he points to a bird  uses the word, then tell him all about the bird, its colors, and what it is doing. Engage. Encouragement.

  •  Walks alone. May walk up steps and run. Let your child take the lead on “hikes”. I put “hikes” in quotation marks because you should set your expectations accordingly. You will not be traveling far with an 18-month-old taking the lead. My Baby likes to go in the opposite direction of my goal. That’s fine. Embrace it. This is also a good time to encourage safe climbing. Climbing stairs, fallen logs, or natural rock formations is a worthy obstacle for an 18 month old. 

A Bucket List for Baby’s First Summer 

It is your first summer with a sweet little bundle of love. And, it is your baby’s first summer – ever. Make the most of it with memorable moments and photo-worthy fun in the sun. Here are 14 more things to add to your summertime bucket list

Photo: Ryan Polei via Flickr

Beach Baby Walking

Taking your baby to the beach is at the top of any list of summertime fun. While you’re there, dip his toes in the water. Take advantage of the picture-perfect surroundings: draw your little one’s name in the sand and snap a shot of your wee babe with the massive ocean behind him.

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Get Messy

Do not be afraid to get messy with your little explorer. She’s never squished sand between her hands before, she’s never made a mud pie and she’s never splashed to her heart’s content at a water table. Each one creates its own mess, but we promise that will be topped by the amount of delight it creates as well.

Photo: Raelene Gutierrez via Flickr

Footprint Time

Summer is the perfect time to take photos of sweet baby toes and hands before they get big. If you’re at the beach, snap a picture of your kiddo’s footprints in the sand. If you’re landlocked, dip your kiddo’s hands and feet in water, then help him make a print on warm pavement, then grab a snap a photo before it dries.


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Blowing Bubbles

Spend an afternoon daydreaming and watching bubbles float on the breezes. This is a super-cheap way to mesmerize your little one, and bring on adorable, amazed expressions that make for perfect photos. It’s so easy to just keep small jars of bubbles on hand and lay out a blanket and watch them drift of. It makes an ordinary day a little special.

Photo: Margaret River via Flickr

Shop Together

Visit your local farmers market to pick out the freshest goodies you can find and set up a summertime feast for your new nibbler. Or, if you’re near a farm, bring the baby to a pick-your-own berries spot, where he can lounge in the shade while you grab a few bright red fruits for him to test. This site will help you find the farm nearest you.

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Photo: brandon v via Flickr

“Smell the Roses”

Head outside to take advantage of the chance for brain-boosting sensory fun in the sun: tickle your little one’s toes with a soft dandelion and let her feel a pinecone’s bumps. Listen to the buzz of a bumblebee. Taste a fresh smoothie. Walk and talk in a garden or two, describing the plants including every sense that you can. 

Enjoy a lovely, lazy summer day. (Hope and Donavan were watering and “tending” their babysitters garden at a really young age. They did not have good aim but loved to hold the hose. Hope did not like water in her eyes, so we used sunglasses.) 

Photo: Kate Hopper via Flickr

Dig It

Pick up a shovel and a bucket and let your kiddo work on his eye-hand coordination. He can dig in the sand at the beach, scoop up some water, or shovel at the playground. Afterward, stroll by a local construction site for a little free baby-friendly entertainment show put on by diggers and cranes.

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Photo By: House of Burke

Artsy Adventures

Give your baby some finger-paint (like the non-toxic kind) and let her make her first piece of artwork. When the weather is warm, simply strip your little one down to his diaper, spread old towels outside, and put out paper and a little paint. You can whip up your own easy-peasy edible finger paint with plain yogurt and a few drops of food coloring, or follow oursimple flour recipe. Hope's first art was so simple. She loved to slap the table or tray on her highchair. So I put dabs of finger paint on a sheet of paper, index card, or paper plate and she slapped it, making spat art. She loved it.
(Using baby safe homemade paint allows you to start art so much earlier. I usually tell people. “If they can feed themselves, I can get all sorts of art out of them.” But sometimes the untamed motions they make with their hands lend themselves to making art even before that.) Alternatively, try ice painting with this how-to from Domestic Mommyhood for another fun sensory play experience. Bonus: the mess stays outside plus you’ll have the baby's first masterpiece.

Outdoor Activities for Babies
You Can Play Your Own Way

Photo: Jade Alexandra Allen via Flickr

Water Baby

Pool, ocean, or bathtub: anyplace you can let your little one relax and splash, do it. Summer is the perfect time for Baby’s first swim and to sign up for a mommy-and-me swim class.

Photo: Shannon McGee via Flickr

Chill Out

When the mercury soars past 95, keep cool with indoor fun. Visit the local library to peruse their extensive selection of board books, or check out museums with stroller- and crawler-friendly programs.

Photo: Cody via Flickr

Feast Outside

Whether she’s feasting al fresco on breast milk or solid food, take that food outside for your baby’s first picnic. Afterward, spread out on your blanket for tummy time under blue skies and watch the clouds drift by before nap time.

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

First Road Trip

Show your baby the sights by taking your first vacation together, even if it is just to the next town over. Visit a new park, stroll down unfamiliar streets and take pictures of your kiddo as you explore new surroundings together. If you’re taking a long road trip, check out this list of tips to make it a little easier on your little one – and you.

Photo: AllieKF via Flickr

Meet-and-Greet with Animals

Visit some wildlife: at a big zoo, a local petting zoo or even the neighborhood dog park. You just might meet your baby’s new best friend. (Okay wildlife came to us in our yard. But our zoo was fabulous in Denver)

Photo: Jereme Wong via Flickr

Easy ideas for outside play

“The sun is shining, spring is here! Ok kids, off you go, outside!”

Sometimes my kids are out the door before I have even finished the sentence, but sometimes they need a little coaxing. I’m a bit like that too. Sometimes I need a little push to get organised and outside.

Outside play doesn’t have to be a struggle, a little pre-planning and some simple ideas will get everyone out into the fresh air without stress.

Make Going Outside Easy!

Some days my kids are out the door first thing in the morning and are dragged back in, dirty and tired, when it gets too dark to see. To make days like those happen it needs to be easy to go outside and easy to stay outside.

Getting outside - make it easy

Make it Easy to Get Out the Door

  • Have hats, shoes and sunscreen in a handy spot by the door so they are easy to find.

  • Teach kids how to apply their own sunscreen. When they are little you will need to go over their sunscreen efforts, but I just supervise my big kids and remind them of spots the may have missed.

  • Use a covering shirt or top like the ones my kids are wearing in these photos. They are from Three Sun Possums and are perfect for my super fair boys, keeping them cool and protected, while also cutting down on the amount of of sunscreen we need to apply. Find out more information below.

Make it Easy to Stay Outside

  • Take lunch and snacks outside. A backyard picnic is always fun, and no crumbs to sweep off the floor either!

  • Give kids a water bottle to keep outside so they don’t need to keep coming in and out to get a drink.

  • Make a place outside for a rest and cool down after lots of wild and active play. A rug and some cushions in the shade is a perfect outdoor chill out spot.

  • Go outside with them. You don’t have to entertain your kids constantly, but if you are outside, gardening or reading or pottering around enjoying the back yard, your kids are much more likely to join in.

Simple and Fun Outside Play Ideas.

You don’t need to set up elaborate activities or full on sports matches to keep your kids engaged and happy outside. There are lots of simple activities and ideas that only need a little set up and even less clean up, and they are lots of fun.

Ways to encourage your kids to go outside - take inside activities outside.

Take Inside Activities Outside.

  • A pile of books or a construction set on a blanket in the shade is an easy quieter outside activity.

  • Set up play dough on an outside table and you won’t have to worry about the mess!

  • Some plastic animals in the sand pit, a dirt patch, a garden bed or just in the grass is an easy invitation for imaginative play. Add some sticks, pebbles or other natural materials if you like.

  • Bring some music outside, there is lots of space to dance and be loud!

  • Some dolls or soft toys would love to have a tea party outside.

Ideas and tips for outside play - water play!

Get Messy

  • Try super simple, low mess, water play with a bucket and a brush to ‘paint’ things with water.

  • You don’t need a fancy water table; try some of these DIY alternatives for water play.

  • Add a bucket of water or a trickling hose to the sandpit, or a patch of dirt to make a mud patch!

  • Freeze some treasures into ice blocks and watch them melt!

  • Taking activities like slime or goop outside makes clean up much easier, you can just hose everyone and everything down!

Ideas and Activities for outside play - take art outside

Take Art Outside.

  • Keep it simple with a container or chalk for drawing.

  • Tape some paper to the fence and paint a mural

  • Use a clipboard to make your art portable and encourage your kids to find something outside to inspire their drawings.

  • Go crazy painting or drawing on a big cardboard box to make a custom cubby house.

Ways to encourage your kids to go outside - play with nature

 Try Mud Painting and Activities:

Mud painting is an easy-to-put-together activity that combines nature exploration with fine motor skill development. Feeling ooey gooey mud between your fingers is a fascinating sensory experience for little ones. Babies can try to finger-paint with mud (or chocolate pudding if you want an edible option) 20 glorious ways to play with mud!

Digging dirt is a favorite:When the weather’s nice, we are outside all day. Because my boys love digging, and I do not want a yard full of holes (especially a yard that sees as many games of tag as ours!), this spring we set up a small area for the kids. It’s a natural play space, where they dig, make mud pies, create natural sculptures – to play.

Setting up a play space for digging from Simple Play Ideas

Play With Nature

  • Climb a tree!

  • Pick some flowers and make a daisy chain, or press them between the pages of a thick book.

  • Plant a garden, there are lots of quick growing, kid-friendly plants and veggies.

  • Collect some friendly bugs.

Ideas and Activities for outside play .

Make Going Outside Easy with Three Sun Possums Sun-savvy Playwear.

I have two fair, and two super fair skinned, children so we are always looking for practical ways to keep them protected from the sun when they are outside. The Three Sun Possum shirts are light, comfortable, and cool, and because they have long sleeves and high necks it means we don’t have to use as much sunscreen. That is especially great for my little one, who suffers from eczema and sunscreen stings and makes it worse.

Garden Play

Gardens are in bloom in the summer, and a stroll through your local botanic gardens will give you a little fresh air and show your baby all-new sights and smells. They’re blooming with sensory experiences for your baby to explore while riding high in a wrap or baby carrier.

There are so many “buzzwords” when it comes to play and learning in early childhood. However, I don’t think there is just one correct way to play. You can play your own way.

Cool off with Simple Water Play Ideas:
Let's get started with our fun water play ideas for toddlers and babies!  The idea of water play is to keep it simple - don't overthink it and you'll find that it becomes a favorite baby activity

1. Watering with Watering Can

Watering Can- No PREP Outdoor Activity for Toddlers

The humble watering can is great for what it’s intended to be- to water plants! And more!

Watering plants is a great activity for your child to develop his arm muscles! As he lifts the “heavy” watering can, he flexes his cute little biceps. This simple movement helps his overall body development.

In addition, watering plants is a wonderful jumping board for teaching about the importance of plants and water. As early as toddler years, we can already begin teaching them how to conserve water!

2. Scoop and Pour with Gardening Spade

The spade is another gardening item that may be used for scooping and pouring. Two proven favorites by toddlers!

Using Gardening Spade -NO PREP Outdoor Activity for Toddlers

As they scoop and pour dirt, they develop their fine motor skills and they get to practice their eye-hand coordination. I mean, they need to look where they are pouring, right?

Water spray activity- NO PREP Outdoor Activity for Toddlers

And it’s an added bonus if they see an earthworm! It's an instant science lesson about creepy crawlies!

3. Spraying with Spray Bottle

As we’re still on gardening tools, let’s not forget the sprayer.

If the watering can is for the arms, the water spray is for the hands and fingers. Every time they put pressure on the lever, it strengthens their finger muscles- muscles that are responsible for writing!

Imagine that. A pre-writing activity without using a pencil!

4. Squeeze a Sponge

Squeeze a sponge activity- NO PREP Outdoor Activity for Toddlers

Let’s head to the garage. Here, you’ll see the sponge used for cleaning the car. 

The sponge is also a versatile item that could help your child develop his fine motor skills. The squeezing movement is great for their cute little fingers!

It’s another pre-writing exercise!

Make sure that the sponge hasn’t been used with harsh chemicals before and you’re good to go. Or to be safer, just buy your toddler his own sponge. It will be worth it! 

5. Use a Water Dipper

Like the watering can, this item targets the whole arm. And fingers, too! Your toddler’s grip will be exercised here as he takes hold of the water dipper’s handle.

Water dipper activity- NO PREP Outdoor Activity for Toddlers

This is also another great item for scooping and pouring. You hand this to a child and I’m sure he’ll be busy in no time


If you want to give your kids an incredible education, I suggest you start outdoors. Here are 30 simple ways to immerse your kids in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way. 

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

Beautiful Canola Field | Alberta, Canada

I grew up on a farm and spent many carefree summer days building forts in the trees with my siblings and exploring the wonders of nature in our own backyard. We went on drives in the mountains, crossed rivers and streams, and logged many miles on the trail together. I found such joy being outside and feeling at one with nature.

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

Sadly, as adults we can lose sight of how magical our world is. It’s easy to miss the butterfly fluttering around the flowers or the tiny bird splashing in a puddle. But by seeing the world through a child’s eyes, we become more mindful of the smallest things; we start to view nature with the reverence and wonder we once felt.

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

That is just the beginning of what we can gain from our encounters with nature.

When we stand in front of the Pacific Ocean or at the base of Yosemite’s incredible rock faces, we sense our place in nature. The world around us teaches us humility.

We learn to slow down, unplug, and appreciate God’s creations, and we feel greater responsibility to care for our earth.

Kids don't remember their best day of television.

Flathead River | Glacier National Park

We practice mindfulness, or experiencing each moment to the fullest. We learn patience as we watch nature slowly work her magic, and we learn to live life unhurried. Simply put, in the outdoors we remember what matters most.

Nature has offered me the most valuable education, and there are few things I want more than to pass that on to my kids. If you’d like to use this summer to give your kids that same education, here are 30 simple ways to immerse your kids in nature and learn valuable life lessons along the way.

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

Herbert Lake | Banff Lake Louise 

30 Simple Ways to Immerse Your Kids in Nature

1. Collect leaves and do leaf rubbings.

2. Roll down a grassy hill.

3. Picnic outside.

4. Collect shells and make shell pets.

5. Build a campfire.

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

6. Pick up trash in a local park.

7. Fly a kite.

8. Smell flowers. Press flowers. Pick a bouquet for the kitchen table.

9. Try geocaching. We’ve always wanted to do this!

10. Float down a river.

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

Dutch Creek | Alberta, Canada

11. Pick a nature topic and learn more about it: animals, plants, weather patterns, etc. Find it in nature, check books out from the library, print images from the Internet, and more.

12. Climb a tree. Even something as commonplace as climbing to a high branch can teach kids important lessons about taking calculated risks and testing their limits.

13. Go to a U-pick farm and pick fruits and vegetables.

14. Do yard maintenance as a family.

15. Collect bugs. My kids are fascinated by creepy crawlies. Observe them, catch them, let them go.

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

16. Play a game of kick-the-can under the stars.

17. Go on a nature scavenger hunt.

18. Explore a creek or river. Does anyone remember catching and releasing minnows? Or how they nibble at your toes? Wade in the cool water. Watch for birds and other wildlife. Look under rocks to see what creatures might be lurking underneath.

19. Go for a walk and make a special box for nature treasures.

20. Balance on a fallen tree. See who can stay on the longest. Make a game of it.

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

Trail of the Cedars | Glacier National Park

21. See the world through a pair of binoculars. Our kids LOVE these and often fight over the one pair we own. We keep them in the car so that we can pull them out and observe things from a distance when we hike, drive, etc.

22. Hang a hammock and nap in the shade of a big tree.

23. Invite friends and family to go swimming in a lake or river.

24. Throw rocks. Skip rocks. Collect Rocks.

25. Watch wildlife.

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

26. Keep a nature journal with photograghs of the times you got to introduce your baby to new wildflowers or wildlife.

27. Grow a garden.

28. Buy a simple sprinkler for your kids to run through in your backyard.

29. Study constellations, lay outside under a full moon, or stay up late for a meteor shower.

30. Hike a local trail.

30 simple ways to immerse your family in nature this summer—and to learn impactful life lessons along the way.

Click image below for a printable version of this list

Download and print the entire list of nature activities and get out there and enjoy your time in nature this Summer! Do you think you could do all 30 things on this list as a family? Cross them off as you complete each one and have fun!


How to Explore Nature in Your Own Backyard

Nature Activities for Kids to Do Outside

Looking for a fun craft or activity to add to your homeschool day? You’re in luck with these 20 nature activities for kids to do outside.

With the weather finally starting to warm up again, I’m always looking for new ways to get my kids outside and exploring nature!

There are so many great nature activities for kids that will encourage them to play outside more and have fun learning about nature in the process! All of these activities work for kids of any age, so you can easily adapt them to whatever age your child is!

Whether you’re looking for a fun craft or an educational activity to add to your homeschool lesson plan, you’re bound to find the perfect fit here! Here are 20 fun and creative activities to get your kids outdoors.

Fun Nature Activities for Kids to Get Outdoors

As the days get a longer and a little bit warmer, it’s the perfect time for some nature activities to get the kids out of the house and out into the sunshine.

So I’ve pulled together 20 activities to give you some outdoor fun ideas that don’t require an exotic location or a mountain of expensive supplies. More than likely, you already have everything you need for an afternoon of crafting and enjoying nature.

Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt

It’s best to make getting outside easy and fun, for everyone. That’s why I made this Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt, so even if you in a city, you can get the kids outside and looking for nature all around them.

Take a walk and see what all you can find.

Make a Wind Catcher

This wind catcher from Inspiration Laboratories is such a fun and easy activity. Just walk into your backyard or take a walk through the woods to find everything you need.

Zentangle Rocks 

Here’s a nature activity even my teenagers would enjoy! From Edventures With Kids, these zentangle rocks are a colorful idea. And if finding the right rocks isn’t easy where you live, you can grab a bag from Amazon.

DIY Outdoor Memory Match Game

My little guy loves a memory game, and this creative option from Rhythms of Play would really make him happy. Plus, wouldn’t every child love to find all the goodies and surprise mom and dad with what they found.

Once you have the boxes, you could use this for so many games. Add colors or letters to each box for a different memory game.

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Nature Collage Suncatcher 

I love these nature collages from Hands On As We Grow because once your child finishes, they will be excited to display it in the window for everyone to see. It also uses simple items you may already have around the house.

Math Patterns in Nature

What is it about little kids that makes them love to find a pattern? This idea from Coffee Cups and Crayons is great because it will also get them searching for the next item. You need a pinecone, then go find it. Hide and seek with math thrown in.

Giant-Sized Rhyming Memory Game

A fun idea that would be great for an outdoor party or homeschool park day, this super-sized memory game of rhyming words from Growing Book by Book will have the kids in the fresh air while working on their phonics skills. 

Nature Weaving 

From The Chaos and The Clutter, this nature weaving project is another one that requires little in the way of supplies other than what you find in the backyard. Perfect for when you need an idea quick and don’t have time for a trip to the store.

Neighborhood Scavenger HuntBecome a subscriber to snag your free gift!Opt in to receive news and updates.Send me the Scavenger Hunt!


Maple Tree Helicopter Seed Dragonfly Craft 

As a child, it was always thrilling to throw a maple seed into the air and watch it spiral down. Actually, it still is. So how could I not love these adorable maple seed dragonflies from Buggy and Buddy?

Scavenger Hunt with Sensory Card 

To really get your children exploring in nature, create this sensory scavenger hunt from Rhythms of Play. They’ll be searching and exploring to find matches to every item.

How to Make a Roly Poly Habitat 

Roly-Polies are also so fun for a child. It’s exciting to see them roll up and then patiently wait to see if they open up again. Fantastic Fun and Learning shows you how to make a roly-poly habitat so you can always have fun watching them roll into a ball.

Finding Symmetry in Nature

Buggy and Buddy has a beautiful and artistic way to explore symmetry with solar paper.

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Teach Tally Marks

The Educators’ Spin On It has a fun idea for using sticks to teach the math concept of tally marks. Perfect for that day when everyone just needs to get outside.

Teach tally marks with sticks, number 10 is two sets of 5 tally marks.

Number Rocks 

This cute number rocks idea is from Fun-A-Day, and can serve two purposes: an art project for your older kids and an learning activity for the younger ones.

Color Matching Nature Walk

When you at the home improvement store getting ready for spring, grab a few paint cards and have your kids see if they can find a match in nature. Thanks, Fantastic Fun and Learning.

Preschool Science-Colo Matching Nature Walk

Growing Mushrooms 

We live where it’s humid, so I’m always excited when after the rain we have mushrooms popping up. But don’t try to eat those! Instead, watch some mushrooms grow inside with a mushroom growing kit. Teach Beside Me has everything you need to know about growing some mushrooms at home.

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Mud Soup

I know this one isn’t for everyone, but if you can stand it, I’m sure the kids would have a blast making mud soup. No Time for Flashcards has this messy idea that only requires a few containers and some water for an afternoon of nature fun.

Nature Mason Jars 

I knew I should have bought that case of mason jars at the thrift store the other day! My little guy would love creating these nature mason jars from No Time for Flashcards.

Nature Kites Science Activity

Fantastic Fun and Learning has a great idea her kids inspired by tying a string to different natural objects and seeing which would make the best kite.

Painted Walking Sticks

Kids always love a good stick, much like they love a good rock! My youngest even loves to scrape all the bark off of his prized sticks, which would make them perfect for this project from Hands On As We Grow. Take those bare sticks and turn them into artistic creations for your next hike.

Fun Nature Activities for Kids

What I love about all these fun nature activities for kids is that they don’t require exotic locations or expensive gear. Just rummage through your kitchen and head out to the backyard.

Exploring nature doesn’t have to mean hitting the trail, heading to the mountains or going camping – though those are all fine ideas. Connecting with nature can be as simple as heading out the back door.

If you’re not quite sure how to get started with your kids, try one of these 50 ways to explore nature in your own backyard. Most require only a few minutes of time and a good dose of curiosity.

1. Go cloud watching
2. Build a fort
3. Climb a tree
4. Roar at the moon
5. Go on a nature scavenger hunt
6. Plant a garden
7. Create a backyard beach
8. Explore a flower
9. Run barefoot through the grass
10. Dig in the dirt
11. Follow an ant trail
12. Camp out in your backyard
13. Tour your neighbor’s front gardens
14. Take a color walk
15. Jump in puddles
16. Go on a backyard birdwatching expedition
17. Bake mudcakes
18. Raise a caterpillar; release a butterfly
19. Build a fairy house
20. Make leaf, rock or bark rubbings
21. Start a backyard field guide
22. Create rock art
23. Gaze at the stars
24. Plant a tree from seed
25. Play with sticks
26. Build snow animals
27. Watch a sunset
28. Go butterfly watching (and maybe catch a few!)
29. Host a backyard garden tour
30. Keep a moon diary
31. Run through a pile of leaves
32. Start a seed collection
33. Paint with mud
34. Take a flower walk
35. Create a fairy garden
36. Plant a flower
37. Search for spider webs
38. Go on a backyard safari
39. Explore a tree
40. Design a backyard hiking trail
41. Create a treasure map
42. Enjoy a backyard campfire
43. Go on a bird watching scavenger hunt
44. Make a birdfeeder
45. Start a nature journal
46. Paint rocks
47. Create land art
48. Take a compass walk
49. Make sand angels (snow angels are nice, too)
50. Go on a backyard bug hunt

Block title

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When you spend alot of time outdoors, you want to create a memory each day. A memory worth telling your dad when he gets home. But heed my warning, they will want to take something from the ground home. That is where they look. So take a ziploc bag...create a collection with them or craft some home decor with what captivated them while they were outdoors.

Contact Paper placemats, bookmarkers, suncatcher and wall hangings with leaves, flowers and plants.
Plastic containers, jars, bottles, and bowls of pinecones, acorns, stones or any bits of nature. 

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