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Incredible Babies

Your baby is doing little physics experiments all the time, according to a new study

Your baby is probably doing a lot more science experiments than you are. (iStock)

When an infant sees an object behave in a surprising way, she does everything she can to learn more about its mysteries, and the initial surprise ends up helping her learn. A new study suggests that a baby can identify an unusual object as being more worthwhile than a typical one, and she can run simple "experiments" on it to help her understand it. So your baby is basically a tiny scientific genius, which is worth remembering the next time she coats the walls in spaghetti. She's probably just doing science, dad.

It also suggests that infants do this themselves all the time. And further investigation of the behavior could help scientists understand how our way of understanding impossible things evolves throughout our lifetimes.

"Not only do babies have a really rich knowledge of the world, but they can harness it to test hypotheses," Stahl said. "When things don't go as predicted, that signals an opportunity to learn. That definitely raises some questions about whether you can use surprising things to shape infant learning. For now, we can say this: Babies let knowledge guide their behavior and exploration of the world just like adults do."

How to Encourage A Interest in Science

Watering plant

You don't have to be a certified scientist to help your child learn about the scientific process or science concepts. The natural curiosity of babies combined with bits of useful information from a trusted adult creates an ideal environment for science learning. Experts at Head Start and parent intuition demonstrate there are many simple ways you can encourage your baby to question, explore and discover the world.

  • Describe what your baby is seeing and doing as she explores.

  • Ask questions about everyday objects and actions.

  • Allow for unstructured exploration.

  • Read books related to planned activities.

  • Introduce different environments and a wide variety of objects.

Attention Span Considerations

Keep in mind, infants have a very short attention span and plan activities accordingly. suggest by eight months old, a baby's attention span is only two to three minutes. By the age of one, this attention span may increase to a maximum of 15 minutes. It is important to be aware of this whether you are working with your own child or if you are preparing science activities for babies and toddlers in a childcare setting.

Adapt for Age

Another key point to consider is most scientific experiments and activities can be adapted to work for children of all ages. Scientist Steve Spangler has a great website with loads of experiments that can be used to create science lesson plans for infants and toddlers, as well as for older children. It also showcases science-related products.

Age-Appropriate Scientific Concepts for Babies

There are many scientific concepts babies can easily learn about.

  • Cause and effect

  • Object permanence

  • Gravity

  • Problem-solving

  • Size and shape

  • Buoyancy

  • Spatial awareness

  • Opposites (empty/full, in/out, wet/dry)

  • Force/pressure

  • Light and color

  • Bonding, layering, & stacking

  • Botany

  • Nature Science

  • Observation skills

  • Patterns 

Science lessons that include sensory activities are particularly beneficial for infants.

Science Is Fun for Everyone

The skills used in making scientific discoveries are helpful in many other aspects of life. Helping your child develop an early love for discovery can be a lifelong gift. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities for infants and toddlers can help lay the groundwork for your child's future success, as can age-appropriate learning activities related to artsign language, math, and more. Begin teaching your child about science and other topics when he or she is an infant, and continue into the toddler years, preschool, and beyond.

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The Importance of Playful Science 

Play is an activity that is learned through playful engagement. Caregivers should join children in their play and encourage exploration rather than just watching them. Play begins in infancy and develops as they build relationships with caregivers. As they grow, they become more aware of others.

Early Brain Development
• A child’s brain is rapidly developing from ages birth to three. This is a critical period in their lives.
• Intentional planning of STEM activities allows brains to take in new information and adapt to new learning.
• Babies are born with billions of nerve cells called neurons which processes and stores information.
• Neurons that are not stimulated go through a natural process called synaptic pruning.

How to Support STEM Play
• Talk to the child as you play.
• Model how to play and use animated expressions.
• Ask inquiry questions and introduce STEM vocabulary.
• Provide children space to play and explore alone and with peers.
• Scaffold the activity by modeling expanded use of the play materials.
• Provide open-ended materials in both inside and outside environments.
• Join the child on the floor as you engage in playful activities.

Early Learning STEM centers
• Things that roll and bounce
• STEM – Math and Science
• Things That Fit in Other Objects

Engineering and Math 

Things that go on top or can be stacked Science, Math, Engineering

• Things that are smooth or rough/Science
• Things that are shiny or sticky/Science
• Things that reflect light or can be seen through/Science
• Things that can be pounded or pushed/Science, Technology, Math
• Things that are alike but are different sizes/ Science, Math
• Things with wheels/Science
• Things that open and shut/ Science, Technology
• Things that make noise when you shake them/ Science
• Things that can be used for scooping, grasping, and building/ Technology, Engineering
• Things that have wings/ Science
• Things that hop/ Science Babies in the Rain
• Infants belong in the rain.
• They belong outside in the grass and dirt.
• They belong on the floor with materials that will engage their senses and minds.

HINT: Post photographs of finished and ongoing STEM projects. So they know that you feel it was a significant experience.

Activity/Who says “Moo?”
• Materials – various stuffed farm animals
• Let children play with animals, then remove one and hid it.
•Ask a question such as what animal goes “meow”.
•When guessed correctly show animal. 

Clear Bottle Magic Activity/Color Search
• Show an object and name its color
•Ask a child to find something in the room that is the same color. 

Activity/Who Lives Here?
• Materials – small, medium and large boxes and small, medium and large stuffed animals.
• Decorate to look like houses.
• Show children how to match the small animal to a small box and so forth.

Science Vocabulary
Height Shape Size Temperature Texture Motion Melt

Physical Science
• Includes characteristics and physical properties of nonliving objects, including solid and liquid materials and how they change.
• Focuses on children’s ability to explore size, shape, weight, texture and flexibility.

Life Science
• Properties and characteristics of living things.
• Observe physical characteristics, behaviors, habitats, and needs of living things.
• Learn that there is diversity and variations in all living things.

Earth Science
• Observing and exploring the properties of earth materials such as soil, water, air, and rocks.
• Plan developmentally appropriate activities.

Ways We Empower Children

As a challenge for adults, there are ways in which we can present these semi-structured experiences as empowering for children - not just in their premise, but in their practice as well. Imagine how a child's experience changes when we do some of the following:

Making Choices Together

You'll feel the full power of these activities when everyone is on board and ready for the experience. Are your children interested in doing the activity you have planned for the day? If they're game for anything, great. Prepare them for what the adventure holds and the opportunities for them to take a lead. If they aren't feeling it, try to figure out why. You can always save an experience for another day or adjust it to make sure everyone is fully comfortable.

Focus on the Process Rather than the Product that was Produced

Some of most amazing things can occur when we focus on the process - the discovery and challenge phase - rather than the product or the outcome. The focus on the process that they are learning, allows them to be able apply that process to future endevours. They will be able to resond in a more independant fashion.

When we present an opportunity and then let a child navigate through it, of course it might not look or go the way you expect, but focus on what your child is getting out of the experience.

Often, they are stretching their creativity, they're learning by doing it on their own and they're challenging themselves in subtle - or visible - ways that build over time.

Photograph Courtesy of family+footprints.

Open Invitation

Sometimes we set up these activities or experiences and it feels like it just isn't a match for our child. They look at it and head off in another direction. Try playing out that string. If you leave a prompt out for a long time, do they eventually come back to it? In their free play are they taking your idea and running with it in their own direction? Leave the prompt out for days and see if it sparks something completely different now that you've lived life and thought about it passively for awhile.

With nature as an interactive classroom, there are many ways to incorporate activities in our outings. And with a focus on empowering children to take just as much of lead - albeit a slightly different one - as they do in free play, they have much to gain and much to inspire in others.


Children of all ages are naturally inclined to engage in STEM related learning. This makes it a natural fit for early childhood settings. Nature and the world around us offers endless resources for teachers of our youngest to the oldest child.

Have fun, explore, encourage and learn at any age.

Fun and Engaging Science Activities
for Infants

ByMichele Meleen M.S.Ed.

Girl with magnifying glass examining flower

Children are born with an inquisitive mind and learn about their world through discovery. Scientific concepts are a natural part of every baby's life. A combination of structured activities and free play will help babies discover what things are and how they work.


Mom and baby looking at stars

Given most babies' sometimes wacky sleeping schedules, it may be possible to take your baby outside and show her the starry night sky. However, if you have a great sleeper, or live in an urban area, observing the sky at night could be impossible to try at this age.

Seeing Stars

This activity can be done with infants of any age and requires parental assistance.

What You Need:

  • Hole punch

  • Index card

  • White envelope

  • Flashlight


  1. Punch several holes in the index card. You can make a fun shape if you want.

  2. Place the index card in the envelope.

  3. Keep the lights on indoors and hold the envelope out in front of you with the flashlight about two inches from the front of the envelope. You can either sit baby on your lap or hold the items directly in front of him. Observe the "stars" you created with the hole punch.

  4. Move the flashlight to the back of the envelope, at the same distance. Allow baby to hold the flashlight and experiment while you make descriptive statements and ask questions.

The Result:

You should see the stars better when holding the flashlight behind the envelope because your body is blocking some light from the room. This is the same concept behind why stars can only be seen at night.


Baby looking in fish bowl

Biology is the branch of science that deals with living things, such as plants and animals. Simple activities like following a pet around and observing its behaviors can be entertaining for infants. While younger babies might only be able to watch, projects such as planting and tending to a garden will help teach biological concepts. Older infants will be able to take a more hands-on role.

Fish Out of Water

In this activity, you will create a thaumatrope to show your baby. A thaumatrope is a toy that moves quickly causing two separate pictures to appear as one. Adults will need to make and demonstrate the project, but babies of any age can enjoy watching the rapid movement revealed in this science experiment appropriate for infants and toddlers.

What You Need:

  • White card stock

  • Pen

  • Scissors

  • String

  • Hole punch

  • Ruler


  1. Cut a four-inch circle from the card stock. You can trace the bottom of a can or jar to make a perfect circle.

  2. Near the edge in the middle of one side of the circle punch two holes, one slightly above the other. Repeat this on the opposite side of the circle.

  3. Measure and cut two equal pieces of string, about 24 inches in length.

  4. Using one string and one set of the punched holes, thread the string through one hole and out the other. Repeat on the opposite side.

  5. Draw an empty fish bowl on one side of the paper and a simple fish on the opposite side, centering each as best you can.

  6. Holding the strings to the sides, twist the paper disc so the string gets twisted.

  7. Pull straight out on the strings as far as you can and watch the paper spin.

The Result:

As the circle spins faster it will appear as if the fish is actually inside the bowl. Your mind retains each picture as it passes and when the pictures pass this quickly, they overlap in your mind.

This experiment can also be done with a piece of sturdy paper taped to a pencil. In this case, you would twist the pencil by holding it upright between the palms of your hands. You can also get creative with the images by drawing other objects like a bird and a birdcage.


Baby dipping finger into color

Chemistry is the study of matter, which is anything that has mass and takes up space. Because babies learn through sensory experiences this particular branch of science can be the most fun for babies and small children. There are many simple ways to explore chemistry with your infant. However, keep in mind one sense babies use frequently is taste. When offering these activities be sure to use ingredients that are safe to ingest in case baby eats some.

  • Make edible play dough. Younger infants can watch as you mix ingredients while older babies can help dump in pre-measured parts.

  • Using milk, food coloring and liquid dish soap you can show 'currents' of color created by the resistance of the milk fat to the watery food coloring.

  • Demonstrate the attraction between positive and negative parts by rubbing a balloon against your (or baby's) hair then picking up small circles of paper made with a hole punch.

  • Make edible finger paints. Show baby how mixing two colors can create a new color.

  • Demonstrate how gas is removed from a solution by taping a balloon over the top of a pop bottle, then shaking the bottle. (Make sure to use a thumb to hold the balloon in place.) The balloon will fill with the gas as it is released.

  • Create a fizzy chemical reaction by mixing baking soda and vinegar.

Earth Science

Baby in sand

Earth science encompasses geology, astronomy, oceanography and meteorology where our planet and surrounding areas are studied. Simple activities that showcase Earth Science concepts include:

  • Making waves in the bathtub or water table

  • Playing in the sand or at the beach

  • Watching videos of meteor showers

  • Playing with a collection of medium-sized rocks (that can't be ingested or cause a major injury)

Acid Destruction

Babies who are able to grip small objects can help with this experiment by dropping the chalk into the vinegar when it is time. Younger infants can watch as the bubbles magically appear.

What You Need:

  • Standard stick of white chalk

  • Vinegar

  • Tall glass


  1. Fill the glass about one-quarter full of vinegar.

  2. Drop a piece of chalk into the vinegar.

The Result:

You will see bubbles rise from the chalk and eventually see the piece of chalk break apart. As an acid, the vinegar reacts with the chalk which is made from limestone. This reaction causes the release of carbon dioxide, which is why you see the bubbles.

For older babies you could experiment with different types of rocks and natural materials to see if the effect is different. These variations may not capture the attention of younger babies, especially if the new materials do not cause a reaction.


Toddler and mother with magnets on refrigerator

One of the more complicated branches of science, physics involves studying how stuff (matter) and energy relate to and affect each other both literally and theoretically. Some concepts covered under this branch include magnetism, electricity and mechanics. Fun activities for infants that involve these ideas and can either be demonstrated or acted out by baby include:

  • Placing and removing magnets on the fridge

  • Turning on the power switch of a toy or safe object like a desk lamp

Boom, Boom

Parents and caregivers can demonstrate this activity and older babies may be able to participate in a more hands-on way.

What You Need:

  • Tennis ball

  • Wagon


  1. Put the ball in the middle of the wagon bed.

  2. Quickly pull or push the wagon forward.

  3. Reset the ball and repeat.

The Result:

As the wagon moves, the ball will hit the back of it making a 'boom' or 'bang' sound (using a tennis ball helps ensure the sound is not too loud). The ball is stationary; it is actually the wagon that moves from under the ball which is why the ball hits the back of the wagon and not the front. This represents a demonstration of inertia which is the resistance to a change in motion.

 Awesome Science Things You Can Do Outside While Baby Wearing

5 awesome things you can go outside while baby wearing. Great ideas for ways to have fun with your family out in nature.

My grandad loved nature, he loved his family and he knew that getting us out in nature would bring us closer together. This is the legacy that I also wish to pass on to our kids. The time he invested in me was well spent. The memories of our walks stay with me today. I will never walk another mile with him, but I know he is by my side when we walk with our kids. He would approve of the all the walks we take today with our (not so) little family.

Start Good Habits NOW

There is an unmeasurable value in spending time together outdoors. It opens up the door for heartfelt conversations and bonding that otherwise would have never happened if you sat together in front of the TV.

The time to start good habits and traditions is NOW, while the kids are young. Trust me, getting them off the couch and out the door later in life will prove to be an uphill battle. However, if you take them outside even before they can walk, you are instilling good values at an early age.

When we go out, I strap the baby in the carrier. He loves going along for the ride and being an integral part of the action.

5 awesome things you can go outside while baby wearing. Great ideas for ways to have fun with your family out in nature.

Continuing in my dad’s footsteps, I have vowed to raise our four boys to have a great respect and love for nature. Our boys are still young, so for the past nine years we have had to baby wear while we explored nature. Baby wearing has never slowed us down or stopped us from finding adventure.

We love doing these 5 awesome things in nature while baby wearing:

Hiking on trails and walking along paths!Growing up in the Finger Lakes, we did this for hours every week. There is nothing that promotes casual conversation like a stroll through a beautiful nature setting.Imagine making this a habit while the kids are young.When they then become tight-lipped teenagers, all you have to do is take them for a hike – and the words will flow like the water in a babbling brook.Trust me, I know how much I told my dad on our walks!

Bird/ wildlife watching!
The best part about this is the preplanning and the educational value of teaching your kids about the wildlife they may encounter. Here’s a collection of books recommended by the National Park Trust.

Rock, fossil or sea glass hunting! Growing up in Denmark, we spent countless hours searching for Baltic amber, fossils and sea glass along the sea shore.The hunched-over walk, the blistering cold wind and ice cold ocean water were no match for our quest to find the ever-elusive yellow pieces of raw Baltic amber.

Talk to your baby about the flora, plants and trees!If you worry about disappointing your child because the rare and endangered bird or animal didn’t make an appearance, perhaps studying plants, flowers and trees is more predictable. It leaves less of a chance for sad faces.

Take pictures and improve your photography skills!In an effort to leave nature as beautiful as you found it, teach your children photography, or learn it together.

Bringing your infant and toddlers along in the carrier sets the stage early for a childhood full of free play and nature-themed activities.

However, you don't have to stick to the woods. The shoreline of any body of water is full of science happening right before your eyes. So find some time in the morning when the sun isn't so hot and the shores or beaches are not so crowded.


Babies absolutely love to touch everything – that’s how they experience the world. Be sure to point out all the amazing sensory opportunities for your little one – like digging in the sand, dipping toes in the water, collecting shells and cool rocks and smelling the salty air.

Beach Babies: How to Train Your Little One to Love the Beach


The best part about all of that nature play is the golden opportunity to take advantage of your child’s natural curiosity and to teach them things like how the water moves, the nature of the tide and all about ocean life and the cool creatures you’ll find there. Without the distractions of screens and the daily grind to get in the way of your focus, you and your baby will enjoy this special bonding time.


Kids have a natural pace and to really allow them to fall in love with the beach it is wise to let them lead you through the hours of the day as much as a parent is able to. If your little one just wants to grab the sticky beach sand and watch it fall on his lap then by all means, do that. Treat your child’s focus on nature as the most important thing about that day.

Beach Babies: How to Train Your Little One to Love the Beach


Find ways to move your body and stretch, walk, crawl, swim, float, do whatever you can to make your beach day a physical day too. There is wisdom in getting your blood pumping and your lungs working hard and teaching your child to enjoy the beach as a way to get some movement is especially wonderful.


Take pictures, laugh a lot, be slow and playful, do whatever it takes to make you and your baby super happy during beach time. It won’t take much for your little one to fall in love with the truly remarkable beauty of spending a day with family at the beach.

By letting your child be the leader in exploring the lay of the land, and by being open to their natural curiosity, you can definitely help your child to develop a healthy love of not just the beach but of the great outdoors. For more information on water and beach safety, check out these safety tips from The American Red Cross. Be sure to visit your state tourism board website to find the best family friendly beaches near you.

If you have an adventurous child, encourage them to engage more of their senses by experiencing the water, mud or get closer to the sounds of the pond. Ask them what they would like to touch: the fuzziness of a cattail, the gooeyness of mud, the sliminess of an algae-covered rock. Be sure to help them understand how to touch the parts of the pond they are interested in without disturbing the environment or hurting any creatures. 

If your child really wants a full-on sensory experience, let them wade into the pond. This is a great way for them to experience how the water temperature, while fairly consistent, does range from bottom to top with the colder, denser water settling at the bottom while the warmer water is at the top. Ask them if they can feel this on their own?  

Another fun experience is to feel the bottom of the pond on their feet. As most ponds have a muddy bottom, this should feel good. But there are likely to be plants, some rocks and even some critters like snails and sponges down there. If they are intrepid, have them reach in and pick up some mud from the bottom. Bear in mind that some ponds can have jagged rocks on their bottom and some might have leeches in them. Leeches are found in shallow protected waters and are most active on hot summer days and at night. These nuisance critters are drawn to disturbances in the water near docks and swim beaches. To avoid leeches, swim in deeper waters off docks and floats. Leeches are mostly found in organic sediments or debris, so try to avoid these areas if leeches are known to be in the pond.

Pond & lake water is a world onto itself! Have your child use their bucket to take a sample of the pond water and peer inside to see what they caught. It could be small fish, plants, tadpoles, insects, or a whole lot of murky water. A butterfly or fishing net is also a great way to catch critters in the water or the air around a pond. 

Butterflies, dragonflies, and water insects love to refresh, eat, and drink on the water of a pond. Chasing these critters on the shore of the pond is a fun challenge for kids and one that not enough kids get to experience. Be sure they learn to be gentle when catching their critter. Once they take a gentle look, noticing the parts of the insect as well as its colors and patterns up close, help your child release the critter safely.

Let your and your child's imagination run wild as you explore this fascinating ecosystem together. Here are some more ideas for having fun exploring nature at a pond! Exploring ponds with kids isn’t limited to the water.

A butterfly net can help you capture amazing creatures such as dragonflies, butterflies, and other flying insects, as well as water insects. Chasing a flying insect is a great hand-eye coordination activity—plus, it’s just fun! And when my children do manage to catch a butterfly or damselfly, they love to examine their vibrant colors and fragile wings. Every creature is so unique and beautiful.

If you are using a stroller to get your babies outside you’ll want to make sure they are warm and dry. For whatever stroller you use, try getting a rain and net cover for it.  You may also want to look into stroller sleeping bags or stroller inserts for extra warmth.  But, if you don’t want to go all fancy, you can use a big warm blanket.  Just make sure baby has room to breathe and move.

It can be tricky to keep a baby cool in a stroller.  I really appreciated these lightweight muslin blankets in the warm summer months.  You might also want to rig up extra shade for your stroller with an attachable umbrella or a blanket thrown over the canopy.  I have heard of parents using cooling mats in the stroller, but I am unsure what these are as it doesn’t often get overly hot here.

Lastly, your infant is so small that you don’t really need a carrier or stroller at all.  Just wrap them up and bring them outside in your arms onto the porch, into the backyard, or out for a little walk. Simply dress your baby with the same type of clothing you are wearing outside.

Plan a stroll just to explore and intoduce new vocabulary 

A baby in a stroller

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Taking your baby for a stroll is a great way for you to get some fresh air and exercise while enjoying the company of your baby.

There are lots of things your baby can learn from the walk as well.  Point out things that you hear or see to your baby while you are on your stroll.  Your baby needs to hear words many times in order to learn what they mean and how to say them.

You can read all about your baby’s language development  for other simple ways to encourage it.


I encourage you to talk with your child using very detailed sentences about the things that your child is observing in their forest, park or yard.  Describe things that catch your babies eye with at least three senses… It feels like, smells like, sounds like, tastes like, their houses look like, their babies look like…You can create great opportunities to use nature as a setting to learn more about animals, foster curiosity, and nurture children’s innate feelings of love and concern for wild creatures. These skills and feelings are more important today than ever!

Research shows strong links between physical activity and brain development. Make sure that your child gets at least 60 minutes (even more) of unstructured physical activity. So make it fun for them. For infants, this is in the form of tummy time. 

Boppy Tummy Time as shown above
ot doing Tummy time may cause learning delays

16 Tummy Time Ideas and Activities by Age

16 fab tummy time ideas to make tummy time fun for baby - ideas and games for every age

From the moment our baby is born it’s drilled into us to put our babies to sleep on their backs.

In the daytime though, it’s also important to put them on their tummies so they can get a whole new view of the world.

They need this tummy time to practice key skills that are important for crawling. Awake time on their front can help strengthen their head, neck and back muscles.

So when do you start tummy time? And why do you need to do it at all?

And – what on earth do you do if your baby hates tummy time and cries to be picked up after only a few seconds?

Below you can find 16 fun tummy time ideas and activities by age to make it a fun experience for you and baby. There are even some you can start from birth.

Why is tummy time so important?

It strengthens those muscles

Tummy time gives your baby an important opportunity to develop their neck, core, arm and leg muscles.

Each time they are placed on their tummies they will strengthen these key muscles. Doing so, will practise all the crucial skills they will later need to roll and crawl. 

It gives them a whole new perspective

It also gives your baby a different view of the world. They’re used to seeing us upside down or from different angles as they lie on their backs. But now everything’s the right way up!

As they reach up their heads and spot toys or objects in front of them they can also practice and develop hand eye coordination.

They get to explore with sensory play

Tummy time can also give baby an amazing sensory experience. It might seem like a small change of position but lying on their tummies gives babies all sorts of tactile information about where their hands, legs and tummies are placed.

It helps little brains input how and why their bodies are moving, as they explore their new world.

What age should I start tummy time?

Tummy time can begin as soon as your baby comes home from hospital. You can start gently by lying your baby on their tummy onto your chest, arms or legs.

You can then gradually move onto placing them on a soft blanket on the floor. If you place your baby on the sofa and sit on the floor you will be at their eye level and can talk and sing to them while they lie.

If your baby is upset then pick them up and soothe them. You want to keep it a positive experience right from the start.

A little note about safety: always supervise baby during tummy time and keep it short and sweet at first.

How much tummy time does my baby need?

Start by giving your baby tummy time for just a couple of minutes, two or three times every day. You can then build up slowly.

As a guide, experts advise that, in the first month or two after birth, that you build it up to 10 minutes of total tummy time a day. This 10 minutes is not in one go but is spread over a few sessions throughout the day.

By about 4 months experts recommend that your baby gets as much as 90 minutes a day of tummy time. 

That sounds like an awful lot, but remember it’s not 90 minutes in one go. It’s spread out over a a number of shorter sessions throughout the day.

Regardless, try not to think of tummy time as an extra chore or focus on the exact timings.

Take advantage of little moments – like after a nappy change or after a nap – to pop your baby on their tummy and talk to or play with them as you do.

Make sure your baby isn’t hungry or tired when you set him tummy-down.

Also don’t place your baby down on his tummy just after a feed.

What to do when your baby hates tummy time

Some babies will be perfectly happy – and even excited – by tummy time. But others will really dislike it.

Being in this new position can feel strange for them. And it’s hard work too. Especially at the beginning, when they’re building up their neck and muscle strength.

Just a small amount of tummy time can be an exhausting workout for little ones. 

If your baby doesn’t seem to like it when you place them on their tummy, then keep tummy time short.

Even if they can only handle a minute of tummy time in the beginning then that’s fine. Scoop them up and give them plenty of kisses and cuddles. Then try again later.

16 Fun Tummy Time Ideas by Age

It can help to make tummy time a fun experience for them too. Pick one of these great tummy time ideas to try and turn tummy time into playtime for baby.

We’ve split them into age categories so that you can start baby off with gentler activities and move onto more fun and interactive ones. 

The age categories are a rough guide for baby and are not intended as a strict age limit.  Feel free to mix and match depending on what your baby likes.

Starting Tummy Time: 
Newborn – 6 weeks old

16 fab tummy time ideas to make tummy time fun for baby - ideas and games for every age

Mummy tummy time

Start gently. Instead of placing your baby on the floor place them on your chest – tummy to tummy.

When they lift their head, they can see your face and will be happier still when you talk, sing or make faces at them.

Aeroplane babies

Cradle your baby, lying their tummy across your arms and go for a walk about your house or your local area.

Talk to your baby about all the things you see along the way.

Black and white

Babies love looking at black and white patterns. In the first few weeks after birth, their developing eyes can only detect differences between light and dark, or black and white.

Placing black and white pictures, board books or toys in front of your baby during tummy time will excite their senses and stimulate them visually.

Ideally the book or toy should be 8-12 inches from baby’s face, for baby to be able to focus on it.  

Bouncing ball babies

If you have a birthing ball or yoga ball, place your baby on top of it on their tummy. Use your hands to steady and hold them and make sure they don’t fall.

You might want to place a blanket on top of the ball to make it cosier.

Keeping a firm hold on your baby, slowly roll her backwards and forwards and from side to side to let her get used to being on her tummy in a gentle but exciting new way.

Gentle Tummy Time Activities: 6 -12 weeks old

16 fab tummy time ideas to make tummy time fun for baby - ideas and games for every age

Fun with fabrics

Take a soft piece of sheer fabric – like a silky scarf – and gently sweep it over your baby’s face as they lie on their tummy.

They will be distracted and excited by the fabric and it can help keep their attention away from thinking about the new position they are in.

Wrist rattle fun

Pop two wrist rattles on your baby during Tummy Time. You can buy some lovely ones with rattles or even with crinkly fabrics.

Your baby will be entranced by the noises they make as they move their arms.

Track the toy

Shaking a toy in front of your baby’s face during tummy time will hold their attention. Even better if it’s a noisy, or colourful one.

If you move the toy slowly from side to side your baby will track it with their eyes.

As they grow older, they will begin to focus intently on the toy and try to reach out and grasp it.

Give them a comfy prop

Tummy time can be hard work for little babies. Give them a helping hand by rolling up a soft towel or blanket and placing it under their chest and armpits.

This takes the strain off using their core muscles to hold themselves upright. They can focus first on lifting their heads to get a new view of the world.

Work it, baby

Baby gyms provide your baby with instant entertainment during tummy time.

With toys to look at, textures to touch on the mat and a soft and comfy place to lie they make the perfect tummy time place.

First Tummy Time Games:
3-4 months old

16 fab tummy time ideas to make tummy time fun for baby - ideas and games for every age

Water baby 

You can buy lovely Tummy Time water mats to add new excitement for your baby.

Filled with water and floating plastic shapes your baby can lie on the water mat and watch and try to ‘catch’ the little fish floating by.

You can find a water mat for baby in our recommended products at the bottom of this article.

Pop up giggles

Toys that pop up are great fun to use at Tummy Time. While your baby lies on their tum you can make the toys pop up and they will love watching to see which one will appear next.

We should warn that some babies find toys that pop up too quickly or loudly a bit scary. If that’s the case then choose pop up toys that move more slowly and gently. But other babies love to see the toys appear out of nowhere and it can make them giggle for ages.

As they get older they can have fun making the toys pop up by themselves. 

Mirror, mirror on the floor

It’s a truth that babies love looking at faces – and they find their own face fascinating! 

Which is why placing a mirror in front of them during tummy time can entertain and distract them.

They might even reach out to touch the baby in front of them. 

Make a book wall

Prop up board books can be stood up in front of baby for them to explore during tummy time.

These can be black and white or with bright, colourful illustrations. The images and stories can help keep baby focused for longer.

Sensory Fun and Games: 4 months+

16 fab tummy time ideas to make tummy time fun for baby - ideas and games for every age

Sensory fun on your tum

It’s easy to make your own Tummy Time baby sensory tray.

Place some objects in a tray (or on the carpet) in front of your baby that are exciting for them to touch and feel.

You could use household items like sponges, net shower pouffes, wooden spoons and plastic teething necklaces. 

Babies find everyday objects captivating and love to explore them.

Rubber duckie fun

This is a fun game for babies who are a few months old and can hold themselves up during tummy time.

Place a shallow tray full of water in front of your baby (an oven tray works well) and pop in some rubber ducks.

Your baby will have great fun splashing their hands in the water and watching the ducks bob along. 


Add some giggles to tummy time by playing Peekaboo while your baby is lying on her blanket or mat.

It’s always lovely to watch your baby’s eyes light up as your face (or a toy) appears from behind your hands.

So however you choose to get started with tummy time, we hope it’s a fun time for your both!

Sensory Based Science for Babies

From the moment a baby is born (and even before birth), they are absorbing information about world through the five senses – what they see, hear, touch, smell and taste. What adults often don’t realise is how important this sensory learning continues to be – through toddlerhood and the early years of school. It has to do with brain development!

Put simply – babies are born with a brain full of neurons and learning about the world through the five senses develops pathways between these neurons. The more of one type of activity stimulating the senses that the baby (and child) experiences, the stronger the pathway becomes. The stronger the pathway, the easier it is for a child to learn more about that part of the world, not just for now but for life. Pathways which are not used often, will eventually disappear.

Let me give you an example. A baby is born into a bilingual home, one parent speaks English and the other French, and the child grows up learning both of these languages . This child has developed brain pathways which a child who only speaks English has not. Once both of these children have grown to adulthood, which will find it easier to learn a new language? The first one. For the second child, these pathways have not been reinforced so by around the age of 10 years of age, the pathway disappears. It does not mean the second child cannot learn a new language as an adult, it may just be more challenging for him to do so.

By providing babies, toddlers and young children with a wide range of experiences which involve their five senses, you develop these strong brain pathways. Pathways which will help them to learn at preschool, through formal schooling and onto adulthood.

Young children don't need highly specialized or expensive equipment to learn how to explore the natural world scientifically. They do need, as Rachel Carson mused in The Sense of Wonder, “the companionship of at least one adult who can share it.”

Simple toys and tools can engage children as they explore natural phenomena in ways that will support their later science learning. Adults who allow children to play and work through small difficulties by themselves support children as they build an understanding of how the world works. Resist the temptation to “fix it” or “make it go faster” or “use it the right way,” and you will build your child’s self-confidence and problem-solving ability.

1. Spinning Tops

Concept: Use these toys as tools to explore motion.

How to support exploration: Ask your child open-ended questions (questions with more than a yes or no answer). How hard do you have to push each type of top before it begins to spin? Are light or heavy tops easier to spin? Are tall or short tops easier to spin? Can a top with a penny taped to it maintain a spin?

Where to purchase: Look for tops in party stores or in catalogues that sell small plastic party favors.

Sensory Science Tools Life over C’s

Concept: Tools can extend our senses, allowing us to obtain more information than we would be able to on our own. Magnifiers extend our sight by making objects look bigger.

How to support exploration: This tool is fun to use to make the world look blurry and our eyes look huge, and to look closely at everything! Magnifiers reveal aspects of nature that are too small to see with just our eyes. Examine skin, coins, flower structures, and insects—all objects with small parts that make up the whole.

Variation: Fill a round, clear plastic jar with water and have your children look at their hands or a picture through the jar. Children often notice the change in apparent size. Ask them, “Did your hand look bigger?” Then let them examine it and ask, “Did my hand really get bigger, or did it just look bigger?” Take another look so children can be certain of their answer. Have your children pinch the lens of a magnifying glass between two fingers and gently run their fingers across it to notice that the magnifier is not flat but has a curved surface, just like the jar!

Where to purchase: Drug stores and discount stores sell inexpensive plastic magnifiers, or you can order them from a scientific supply company.

3. Eye Droppers or Pipettes

Concept: As children use eyedroppers and pipettes to move liquids, they learn a lot about how liquids behave. For example, they learn that when they squeeze the bulb the dropper pushes air out, and when they release the bulb it pulls water in. Children this age can also observe that water forms drops.

How to support exploration: Show your child how to squeeze the dropper to force the air out of the bulb and how to release it to allow it to pop back into shape, drawing in air or liquid as it reforms. Your child can feel the air as it leaves the dropper by holding the dropper up to her cheek (away from her eyes) as she squeezes the bulb. Use the dropper to suck up small amounts of rain from a puddle or to mix colored water from one dish with water of a different color in another. Turn the dropper upside down to create a fountain. All of these activities have the added benefit of helping your child develop small motor control.

Where to purchase: Buy just a few at a pharmacy or dollar store or order many from a scientific education supply company.

4. Bubbles and Bubble Wands

Concept: Bubbles teach children about geometry (shapes) and give them an awareness of air movement. How long will the bubble last, and where will it float?
How to support exploration: Bend a pipe cleaner into a square-shaped bubble wand and ask your child to predict what shape the bubbles will take. Introduce less common words like “sphere” as you blow bubbles to give your child the ability to describe a three dimensional shape and to expand his vocabulary.

Where to purchase: Look for bubble solution in party stores year-round or, during the warm months, in drug stores and discount stores.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at the Sea

By: Julia Luckenbill

Girl learning about STEM through aquatic life

Summertime…and children are at play in the ocean, sifting through sand, scooping up buckets of water, and chasing the waves. You’d be surprised at how much science and math children are learning as they play!

  1. Volume—Infants, toddlers and preschoolers enjoy filling and emptying buckets. They explore how many things their hands, pockets, and shirts can hold. Some children may enjoy filling shells with smaller shells or rocks.

  2. Physics, architecture, and engineering—It’s fun to stack rocks in tippy piles. When will they fall? Balancing on rocks keeps their feet dry in tide pools. Older children can make amazing forts with driftwood.

  3. Categorization and sorting—Infants, toddlers and preschoolers enjoy collecting various items, such as seaweed and shells. Older children can learn the objects’ names and make piles of their finds by category, noticing differences and similarities. Lots of lost things can be found at the beach, too.

  4. Cause and effect and problem solving—Infants, toddlers and preschoolers discover the sensations of being wet and sandy at the beach, very different from the usual sensations of school and home. They discover that wet sand behaves very differently from dry.  Older children may research how wet sand needs to be to make a castle stay up and how high  a sand wall needs to be to keep the water away. 

  5. Animal behavior—Did you ever notice how seagulls stay just a few feet ahead of a toddler or preschooler, rarely flying away, but also not permitting the child to get too close? Goose barnacles move when stroked, and anemones close if you feed them a sea snail. Seals bark protectively when you approach their territory. There’s a lot for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to observe at the beach (and you can document it too, if you have a camera).

  6. Mathematics—Infants may discover one treasure and hold it, while toddlers and preschoolers find many things to count at the sea.  There are treasures to tally up, waves to count. Three stick candles on a sand birthday cake means someone is turning 3! And when you eat your snack on the beach, you have no more snack.

  7. Plant identification—Toddlers and preschoolers may discover that beach strawberries are edible, poison oak should be avoided, and seaweed grows in the sea! Some may learn that you can eat some kinds of seaweed.

  8. Geology—Infants, toddlers and preschoolers may find that beach stones come in many colors.  Preschoolers learn that some are special (beach jade and jasper, agates, fossils) and worth collecting and trading.

  9. Weather observation and astrophysics—Children learn lessons about these things too: when there is wind, the kite will fly, and when there is not, it will stay down. When it is windy, it is cold, and when it is not, beaches are often hot. The tides go out during part of the day (if children ask you why this happens, it’s because the moon isn’t pulling the water up onto the land).

  10. Technology—Parents can invite children to explore this as well -- use maps to get to the beach, books and cell phones to find the names of things, cameras to record adventures, and bring kites to explore the sky. 

What a joy to learn as you play beside the sea – happy adventuring!

Ways to Explore
STEAM Inside

Let them help be a part of the whole process of collecting and assembling and then investigating nature inside your home.

Nature Sensory Bottles

These were a real treat in our house. Simply choose which sense you’re going to activate and fill small clear jars with either flowers (sight), herbs (smell), grains (hearing) or anything that will surprise your little one! I used empty spice jars or plastic jars from Dollar Tree. The grains were a big hit as they made lovely gentle sounds, which she preferred over loud, synthetic commercial ones. I used smaller spice jars when the kids were babies. Fill bottles with water and your natural treasures and tighten the cap securely.

Laminated Leaves & Flowers

Summer Crafts for Kids: DIY Laminated Nature Suncatchers

Simply trim the stem off a few flowers as tight as you can to the bud then run them through the laminator (or press them in a heavy book for a few days then use clear contact paper folded over the flowers. I cut all my sheets to the same size to make it easier for children to sort through. She really enjoyed studying each little bud and leaf.

The girls made theirs into a suncatcher garland & loved exploring the flowers with magnifying glasses and comparing the flowers and leaves. Beautiful right? 

Baby Nature Blocks

Hope was a happy baby who loves simple games like that (as do most babies. Blinking lights and flashy toys are really not necessary!)

But sometimes mama just wants to get crafty and make a new toy for baby. I did that today with a grocery store bouquet of flowers and some upcycled baby food containers!

How to Make Baby Nature Blocks

First off, this is going to be the easiest toy to make! I barely need to make a “how to” section on this post. But I know how much some of you like details, so here goes:


Flowers (I used a grocery store bouquet) or other nature

Baby food containers (Gerber’s plastic ones work well)

After the food containers were empty and had been washed, I just placed a few flowers and leaves inside of them and snapped the lid back on. That’s it. The hardest part of this whole activity is having flowers on hand.

The next step was introducing them to baby. He was soooo happy! He knocked over every tower I made, threw them across his mat, investigated them from all angles, banged them together, etc.

These blocks are so inviting! The way the light shone through them, the vibrant colors of the flowers, and the way the petals gently swished as he shook them made them extra intriguing for our little guy <3 

I know some of you will ask how long these blocks keep for. The truth is I don’t know. We just made them yesterday, so I’ll test them out and update you all later.

Sound Blocks

See the source image

Sound blocks can be made with the same process. The eight sound blocks I made were filled with nature, rice, beans, pasta, birdseed, shells, pea gravel, beads, and colored gems. You could use any materials you have on hand though that you feel would make a neat noise when shaken. I think next I’d like to make one with bells inside!

 Nature Sticky Mural

nature activities for toddlers

Nature is art, and you can also create your own custom art with elements from nature! I can Teach my Child has a lovely idea for an outdoor mural where toddlers can stick leaves, petals and whole flowers in any pattern of their choice. You’ll need contact paper for this activity, which you can stick to a wall or solid gate outside. Hand the children the materials and let them create art!

Nature Collage

nature activities for toddlers

Collages are among the easiest craft projects for toddlers and preschoolers, and this one from Kids Activities Blog is no different! However, what’s special here is that you use only natural elements to make the collage! They have used contact paper to make the collage do double duty as a sun catcher, but you can just use a sheet of thick paper or card stock as well. Use fresh flowers or dried ones – they’ll all look pretty!

 Nature Sensory Bag

nature activities for toddlers

Sensory bags are a great way for babies to explore and learn to focus their attention. This sensory bag from Hands On as We Grow also doubles as a sun catcher – just stick it on window! Gather the materials by doing a scavenger hunt or a nature walk and use double bags especially if you’re dealing with over-excited toddlers or babies! You can focus on using different textures here, so it’s more fun to squish and move around!

 Scent Jars

nature activities for toddlers

This is an excellent sensory activity for toddlers and preschoolers and helps them learn about different scents. Mamas Happy Hive has used lavender, lemon and basil, but you can use any scent of your choice. Just use clean, dry glass jars, add a piece of lime or a spring of lavender along with the associated essential oil. Hand the jars to your child and let him sniff and guess!

DIY Rainstick

nature activities for toddlers

Sensory bottles are a great option for babies and toddlers, and we love this one from Rhythms of Play! The best part is that you can make it with things lying in and around your house. Get a transparent plastic bottle so kids can see all the components even while they’re shaking and playing with their rainstick. With the rains coming soon, let them get used to the sound of falling raindrops!

 Nature Soup

nature activities for toddlers

Who doesn’t love water play? We bet your little one does and that’s why she’ll love this nature soup activity from Meri Cherry! This is basically a water based sensory activity, where you create a ‘soup’ with all kinds of elements – lemons, leaves, flowers, twigs and more! Put it all into a large plastic tub with colored water, and then hand them utensils and brushes to swish everything through. Let them stir, sieve and pour to their heart’s content!

Dry herbs and Flowers from your walks and adventures
Hand drying, the oldest method, is also the easiest and most effective method for drying anything: leaves, flowers or herbs. Hang drying is also good for drying large quantities. You can tie and hang dry flowers in a closet, attic, dry cellar, garage, outdoor shed, or anywhere that is dry, warm and out of strong sunlight. Use for wall hangings from a stick or small branch or display in a vase.

dried flowers laminated placemat kids craft mothers day

Make placemats to spread your love of nature

It could become an ideal gift for any occasion. Older children will manage this easily on their own but younger children will need help from an adult with the lamination process. It takes a week or so to dry the flowers, so you'll also need to plan to set them aside and be patient.

Developmentally Appropriate Nature Play for Ages 0-2

Image to pin

Just about one year ago, I committed to having my 5 month old play outside every day. I laid the foundation for why I feel so strongly about outdoor play and shared my ideas in a blog post about what outdoor play looks like for babies. The post provided a few ideas for what very young children can do when they are hanging around in the backyard. In full disclosure, we haven’t made it outside every single day since then, but we have made it a priority in rain, shine, or snow… and I’d say we’ve done a commendable job!

Now that my little one has grown a full year older and I’ve spend a full year thinking about, reading about, and experiencing outdoor play with young children, I have even more to share. Outdoor play is vital for all children, even the youngest of babies. Nature play synergizes the importance of active play with the benefits of a natural environment. Not only is nature play important for building physical, social, and cognitive development, it’s also a vital component for raising children who care about our Earth. Jacques Cousteau said, “People protect what they love,” and I completely agree. That’s why we need to teach children that they are a part of nature and not apart from it.

It may not seem like it, but there’s so much that even the littlest of children can do in nature. Children are never too young to begin appreciating nature nor too young to reap the benefits of spending time outdoors. Simple things like watching a bird fly through the sky nurture a baby’s development and begin fostering a love for nature.

I looked through developmental expectations for children from the Center for Disease Control and used it to create a list of outdoor experiences for babies and young toddlers from 2 months through 2 years old. I hope this list will inspire you with at least a few ideas for nature play given your child’s development!

Wike Baby photo, playing with leaves, pacifier in mouth

Before we move on, let's step back for a second. The purpose of this list is not to compare what your child can do to what is expected. As parents, especially new parents, it's natural for us to want to compare our child to what is "normal". I fully recognize that not all children progress through milestones at the same ages and that every child is unique. Keep in mind that even if a child's motor skills are developed age appropriately, language skills emerge at different rates. Some children showcase their oral vocabulary earlier on while others take it all in without expressing their thoughts to the world. Children also accept sensory experiences at different rates; some can adapt quickly, while others may need a slower introduction to learn that new settings, textures, and movements are safe to enjoy. I recommend that you consult an expert such as a pediatrician, pediatric OT or PT, or speech pathologist if you have questions about your child's development.

Use this list to help you answer the question: “What can nature play look like for my baby?” Find where your child falls developmentally (regardless of the age listed), and read about what you can do to support his development during nature play.

2 Months

Wike Dad with tiny baby in front carrier.

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 Wike 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:

  • Turns 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 Wike 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 Wike Baby was, put him on your chest as you lay down on the grass for some parent-child outdoor bonding.

4 Months

4 month old tummy time on grass, Photo by Monica, on Instagram @mamanonthetrail

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 around 5 months, and Wike 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 Baby in Bumbo seat reaching for bubbles

6 Months

Wike Mom and Wike Baby blowing dandelion seeds

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. Wike 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, definitely try it now. At one year, Wike 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:

  • Explores things 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 in to the water. Show your child how two sticks or two rocks knock together to make a sound.

  • Looks 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. Wike 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.

  • Pulls 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 Wike 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!”

  • Plays simple pretend, 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 nature 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 parent 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 and uses the word, then tell him all about the bird, its colors, and what it is doing. Engage. Encourage.

  • Scribbles on own. Time to introduce sidewalk chalk! Sidewalk chalk is endless fun. On hot days, you can also “paint” on pavement with water and watch it disappear. Show your child how some rocks can be used to write on other rocks. We had a blast writing with shale when I was a child.

  • Walks alone. May walk up steps and run. Let your child take 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. Wike 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.

Wike Baby navigating over a fallen tree

2 Years Old

2 Year Old balancing on fallen tree, Photo by Ashley @urbanknotsmama

This is where we are headed in my house, and boy do I have ideas. I’ve consulted friends with two year olds or recent two year olds to ensure my suggestions are appropriate. I welcome your ideas, as well! Share them in the comments below.

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

Girl climbing on driftwood, Photo by Karen on Instagram @tyrannosaurustreks
  • Copies others, especially adults and older children. Playing in nature with other children (especially older children) will give your child lots of ideas of things to do. This is the perfect age to start attending a mixed age nature play group near you, such as Free Forest School!

  • Points to things or pictures when they are named. When you see something interesting, tell your child. Don’t point to it, necessarily. You can foster language development this way by saying things like, “Let’s run to the big rock.” “Where is the red bird?” or “I see a gigantic puddle!”

  • Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers. Playing in sandboxes is a great experience to introduce now if you haven’t already done so. You can hide nature items like pinecones, flowers, and rocks in your sandbox and have your child find them. If you’re feeling particularly "Pinterest-y," there are tons of similar sandbox activities out there to try. For example, you can make “fossils” with plaster of Paris, hide them in your sandbox, and give your little paleontologist a shovel, paintbrush, and magnifying glass to help him excavate.

  • Begins to sort shapes and colors. There is so much to sort outside: leaves, rocks, sticks, and flowers are just a start. Use small bags or buckets for sorting or simply draw circles with chalk for a spot to place the items. When hiking, hunt for specific things like big pinecones and small pinecones. Support your child’s language of colors by naming the colors of things all around you—including the trail markers! We love to high-five all the “yellow dots” along our favorite trail.

  • Plays simple make-believe games. A twig might become a phone, a rock may become a steering wheel, you might pretend to fall asleep outside on a comfortable looking boulder. Engaging in imaginative play with your child is one of the finest things in life.

  • Builds towers of 4 or more blocks. Try building towers of flat rocks together or take your blocks outside. You can also cut wood for an outdoor block set or create a Waldorf-inspired block set like the one on this blog post.

  • Follows two-step instructions. Practice two-step directions when you’re getting ready to go outside. Say, “Get your shoes and jacket, so we can go outside.” When you’re out and about, there’s plenty of ways to practice this. “Give the big stick and the little stick to Daddy,” for example.

  • Names items in a picture book. It doesn’t have to be in a book; at this age, children can name some items they see in general, such as after you hike to the top of a mountain and look out. That being said, reading is SUCH an important experience for young children to have, and I would be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to encourage reading! Bring your books outside, especially your nature books. Bring your book Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi outdoors while you explore and capture insect, or bring Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner to the lake with you and see what you can find that matches the book. Bringing your books outside can really make nonfiction come to life!

  • Stands on tiptoe. Kicks a ball. Begins to run. Climbs onto and down from furniture without help. Walks up and down stairs holding on. Again, you cannot replicate outdoor terrain indoors. Even playgrounds do not give your child the opportunities for physical challenge that natural settings provide. Let your child climb on rocks, trek through puddles, roll down hills, and balance on logs. The natural terrain will help your child naturally develop balance, core strength, and spatial awareness

  • Throws ball overhand. If you haven't yet taught your child the pleasure of throwing rocks into giant bodies of water, now is the time. Big splashes are encouraged!

Some of the ideas I shared are super simple and some are more complex. Maybe just knowing that the simple things you’re doing outside with your baby matter and are contributing their development will support your efforts to get outside. Your child is never too young to start appreciating nature and never too young to reap the benefits of being outdoors!


Block title

When you start doing guided STEAM activities together it is important that you select activities where they can just scatter materials over a creative endeavor. They may not have the fine motor skills required for accuracy in placing or moving materials into a certain spot. 

During art challenges, focus on one repeated physical motion at a time in order to develop eye hand coordination as in smushing, spreading or pressing..
Respectfully assist them and connect with them as a buddy or playmate would.. Modeling appropriate social and problem solving skills while they are young, allows them to assimilate and use the same playing skills with you and other playmates.  

I am safety minded so I really do not like marbles in my classroom and home. Although they add color to your light table and other sensory science activities, they are also very dangerous for any STEAM
or sensory science project for a baby.

However, I did see something on Amazon yesterday that can be used in the same way, but they are safe to use at 18 months and up. This is a perfect spot to add the information to my manuscript.

Textured Shaped Sorter with Art & STEAM applications, Sorting and Physics with dough

Textured Shapes for Art For STEAM Physics with dough, art and sorting

Large Transparent Shells for STEAM Light Table and Physics with Dough

Transparent blocks for STEAM Patterns and building city towers 

Large Rainbow Pebbles for STEAM physics, stacking and patterns, & Light table STEAM

If all else fails use M&M's that will add color but will melt if swallowed.

STEAM activities for babies

Simple Science Play:
exploring color 

It's always exciting to prepare your baby's space for play! First and foremost, babies love to explore and learn through their senses. Finding something that combines those two things is my favorite. Recently, I made and created a little fun for Teddy in our playroom for him to explore color. I simply placed them out near his movement area and let him discover them on his own. 

Montesorri Window DIY 

The object here is not to learn the names of the colors or to see what colors are made from mixing them, it's simply to explore and see the world from a new perspective. This same idea would work for an older toddler/child too and then those language pieces would become more important.

To make these window rings, you'll need: 

I took one of the sheets of cellophane and placed it over the solid inner ring of the embroidery hoop. Then placed the outside hoop on top of the cellophane sheet and tightened. Then I cut the overlap off of the hoop with simple scissors. 

Once I had 6 of the hoops made, I tied a small amount of elastic to each hoop. I got the elastic at a local craft store. I chose it so that there would be some spring as they are played with and they wouldn't be too hard to manipulate. See a video of them in action here.

Baby development happens best through sensory rich play and exploration. Here's an easy, baby activity to help your baby explore color.

I hung them very low on our sliding glass door so that the light would come through nicely and Teddy could grab them easily. They could also be hung on long pieces of elastic from a play bar or wall - whatever your space allows. If you want to use it with an older child, just hang at their level! I will suggest that you supervise during this play. I don't personally trust that Teddy couldn't get the cellophane out of the hoop, so I always watch carefully in case one comes out. 

And, that's it! Super simple, but really engaging. Teddy sat and used these for 25-30 minutes a time each day. They make a lovely sound and movement when touched. I find it fascinating that Teddy seems to gravitate toward the same colors over and over - again showing preference and choice at such a young age! I love it. 

Science Play Ideas:
Exploring Water 

Water play is probably my most favorite sensory activity for children of all ages, there is just something so engaging and relaxing about playing with water. I have introduced water play with both of my babies once they are able to sit reasonably well and as it takes mere minutes to gather a few accessories and a shallow splash of water it is one of my go-to activities for times when little ones are particularly fractious or unsettled.

Here’s a few simple tips for starting out with water play for babies…

ideas for baby play- starting out with water play

games for babies- starting out with water play

Babies don’t need a lot of water but it can be a good idea to keep an extra supply nearby in case it does get tipped out. Pour the water into a small, shallow sided bowl so that it is easy for them to access and reach any accessories.

Keep accessories simple. I like to add two or three small containers that are easy to hold, a spoon or small ladle and a few smooth, flat river stones. Make sure you choose larger stones that do not constitute a choking hazard. If you do not have any suitable stones, a few plastic blocks or shapes will work as a substitute.

baby games- starting out with water play

games to play with babies- starting out with water play

Your baby will probably get a little wet so be sure to dress them in play clothes that won’t bother you too much if they get messy. If it is really hot and you have a shady spot, just a nappy is perfect. You may also like to keep a towel nearby for a dry off once you are done.

In cooler weather, sit your baby somewhere sheltered, popping them down on a beach towel if you are inside or on bricks or decking, and use warm water instead of cold.

playing with babies- starting out with water play

activities for babies- starting out with water play

As you sit with your baby, talk to them about what they are doing – simply say what you see, “You are splashing with your hand” “You put the rock in the cup”

Sit back and watch your child explore and learn as they play.

**Children should be supervised closely whenever they are around water. Never leave your child alone when they are playing with water

Summers with Memaw and Pops- Incredible Grandparents 

I loved it when I got to come home (Finger Lakes) for part of my summer. My mother and step father loved to spend time doing what they did as children with my children. Everyone had a good time together. Althougth I think Hope enjoyed it more than the boys did. She was into exploring and was curious about everything

​Hope And I loved to spend some of our summers with my family in the Finger Lakes when she was little. She loved everything about gardening with my stepdad and preparing the veggies for canning with my mom. Walking on the paths through the woods that animals made or following the little creek into the woods was an quite an adventure for her. She had her own ideas on how to make the place more beautiful. She often left with pipe cleaners full of Cherios to feed the animals. Pops said she made his walks really fun and she never missed anything new in the woods. 

Once they were home, they would take her nature collection from her pockets and put it into a small mason or jelly jar or old baby bottle, fill it with water and sometimes some glitter or food coloring in the water then put a lid on it.  Then she could shake it and look at it all day. She noticed different things every time she shook it. My pops said that it was the way he learned about wild things.

My mom and Hope loved to bake or make jello and popsicles with the fruit from the yard and woods. Even making jam after Hope and Pops came in from picking berries was just a blast to make with her. So my mom basically was getting to do all the things that my mom did as a child and she loved it too.
Hope's attire was usually bib overalls (just like our Pops) and mudders unless she was hot. They both loved having her here. They loved the whole learning from multiple senses and came up with ingenious ways to help with her Sensory Integration Disorder.
​​My grandmother was a baker for hire. So she baked for restaraunts at home. When Hope was almost 2, (1999) we went camping for the weekend in the 1,000 Islands. Hope was a figgety toddler and her mind raced but she was content if she had something in her hands.
I forgot to pack her playdough (ugh). So my grandmother made her pie crust and we went for a walk to pick up some of nature's tid bits to play with.
It was freaking adorable to watch them play together. My grandmother showed off her game as they handcrafted the 1001th island. She basically showed me just how the Bathrick's children played. Hope was the third generation that she taught how to do this. I couldn't figure out how I didn't remember this when I was training the YMCA staff around the country. I taught nature crafting but not with playdough. I wished that I had thought about this idea before.
​So for three days, Hope learned that a stick was not always just a stick and that stones and any type of nature was fun to use in playdough too. We had so much fun finding things to use in her playdough.
Loose Parts Options Handout
Loose Parts Planning Worksheet
Loose Parts Reflection

They went all out. Their supplies were a bit different but just as much fun. There is just something that intrigues littles in getting to use something from their grandparents sheds ar basement. 

Mason jars for storing her collections and observatory's
Old milk jars for experiments
Jelly jars observatory
Index or recipe cards
Paper plates
Food coloring
Corn starch
Old fashion spray starch for ironing clothing
Rubber bands
Jelly Jars observatories for bugs
Fabric scraps
Ziploc bags
Lunch bags
Crepe paper
Dippity do-sensory bottles or bags
Rubber cement
Fishing line
Wax paper
Window Screen
balsa quart containers
Used whipped butter containers
Metal buckets
egg cartons
pie crust
Dollar store items of interest
Basic art supplies

They really enjoy also being able to change the appearance of things in theier environment. My neices little one, Ada, loves her walker to explore home. She grabs anything in her reach. She swipes the towel on the oven door and hides it because she wants to see inside the oven. Exploring their enviroment through all of their senses is what they do to learn. 

Outdoor STEAM Activities
for toddlers and babies

Outdoor play doesn't always have to focused on developing gross motor skills. Create relaxing moments by offering calm activities that can be enjoyed outside with babies and toddlers.

Why Babies Learn in the Natural World

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Conventional wisdom in the U.S. is to bundle babies up and keep them indoors. But research and long held wisdom around the world tells us that infants and toddlers in well designed outdoor spaces benefit from access to a wide variety of sensory stimuli the likes of which they just can’t experience indoors.

“Babies thrive out-of-doors. They sleep better, eat better, look better, play better, and learn better.” – Magda Gerber

The first months and years of life are a “critical period” in which the brain develops more than any other time—when the foundation for a life’s worth of learning is laid. To the parent and educator in me, this can feel like both an incredible opportunity and an overwhelming responsibility. Adults, especially parents, are born ready to support their babies as they grow. But, it can feel hard to see that, especially as we are trying to learn to parent a brand new human, and there is so much advice and expertise tugging at us.

"Genetically, infants are wired to learn and their parents are wired to help them." —Ann Lewin-Benham

One easy way to play your role as #1 supporter of baby’s development is to provide an ideal learning environment. Since babies are born with the instinct to explore and learn how the world of people and objects works, a natural setting is a wonderfully stimulating environment for them to grow. The benefits of nature to babies abound, and to follow are a few of our favorites:

  • Because of the variety and richness of the sights, sounds, textures and smells in nature, the outdoors offers increased chances to expand a baby’s understanding of the world.

  • The more we learn about the brain, the more it makes sense that greater sensory opportunities like those in natural settings also support synaptic development in the brain—the defining work of baby’s brain during this period. On average, the human brain grows synapses from around 2,500 to 15,000 total in the first two to three years of life.

  • As babies grow, the outdoors offers surfaces and objects that are ready-made for baby to use to challenge him or herself on the next gross motor achievement and that give feedback to help baby increase strength and balance. This means enhanced physical and motor development.

  • Exposure to the microbes that live in natural environments boosts immune system development, leading to a healthier childhood and even adulthood. Whether or not you agree with the hygiene hypothesisresearch from around the world and dating back to the 1900s shows that young children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to get sick.

  • Reduced stress and anxiety for both baby and treasured adult and increase in positive emotions and limit the stress that we know can deter healthy development across domains.

  • According to research, knowledge of the natural world gained by young children through direct experience leads to greater respect for and love of nature. If we want our children to connect to nature for a lifetime, infancy is a prime time to foster that connection. Infants and toddlers have not yet formed a fear of nature—a fear which, according to experts including Richard Louv and David Sobel, is increasingly present among older children and adults and is associated with lack of experience and/or knowledge of the natural world. Because the adults in an infant or toddler’s life have a tremendous influence over that child’s experience of the world, we can offer them this direct connection and set them on a path of stewardship from the start.

  • Nearly all pediatricians recommend spending increased time outdoors with infants, for the many health and wellness benefits to both baby and parent.

  • Perhaps best of all, research from the Journal of Sleep Research shows that time in nature even helps babies establish healthy sleep patterns. The more babies can rest, the more resources they have to learn and the better they can solidify their cognitive, emotional and physical development. Plus, as any parent of an infant knows, getting baby sleeping regularly is worth gold!

Here are a few simple things to try to help provide the benefits of nature to our babies:

Spend even more time together outdoors. 
It sounds simple, but there are barriers that keep us indoors—weather, gear, nap schedules and, worst of all fear. But, there are ways around it all. Babies have so much to learn, and the sensory stimulation that natural settings provide supports so much learning.

Walks are a great starting place: 

If you are just getting started, focus on taking longer and longer walks outdoors with your baby. Whether you are wearing your baby or pushing them in a stroller, your baby will benefit from the sunlight, the fresh air and the myriad sounds, smells and sights that come with being outdoors.

Get on the ground with baby:

If you are already getting around outdoors with your baby, try getting down and giving your baby lots of direct contact with the earth. If going right onto the dirt or grass feels like a stretch for you or baby, start out on a blanket and watch your baby play with her hands and feet or with a few objects from home or nature that support exploration. Just moving the play you might do indoors outdoors offers baby the benefit of the sensations, sights and sounds of being outdoors.

If you’re ready, start to have daily tummy, seated exploration or crawling time right on the grass or dirt. Watch your baby interact with and manipulate the grass, moss or whatever covers the ground. There so much to discover as baby feels and tugs at the ground cover. Place natural objects like smooth stones or safe herbs within reach and see how baby explores them.

If your baby is already crawling around or walking, get a low box or bin and fill it with nature treasures. Some of our favorite treasures for babies include pine cones, smooth stones (greater than 2” in any direction), edible herbs like basil, edible flowers like violets, and bunches of grasses tied with twine. Watch how your baby explores these objects, and enjoy exploring them yourself right alongside. Definitely, enjoy how silly a tickle from those grasses can be.

Gear up: 
Read more about how to dress baby for when the weather is wet or cold. Remember, you’ll be on the ground too, so you may want gear that will keep you comfortable too. Polarn O. Pyret has high-quality outerwear for infants and babies. 

Mud Play! 

When you are ready for it, water, dirt, and mud make for wonderful play for baby. It will be messy, and some mud will likely make it into the mouth. But, the free, joyful exploration and sensory are so worth it! Read more about the benefits of messy play at any age. 

Sensory Science Activities

The delicate sound of wind chimes

Purchase several different wind chimes that produce a variety of high and low-pitched sounds. Hang the wind chimes in different areas (supervision required): from tree branches, under an umbrella, on a swing, etc. Place young babies on their back, under the wind chimes. If you wish, you can also hold one wind chime at a time in your hands, placing it over each child's head. Encourage little ones to look up at it and help them associate the sound with the wind chime.

Exploring scents

Exploring scents that are present outdoors can help children relax. Deposit freshly cut grass or fragrant flowers (such as lilacs) in a small opaque box or container. Punch a hole in the lid and encourage children to smell the contents of the box and try to guess what is inside. You can let very young children peak through the hole. Open the box to let them discover the item and name it. Repeat the activity, adding a second box containing another scented item.

Want to protect your little one’s eyes from shampoo and soap while rinsing their head after bathing? Our cute and reliable “Baby Shampoo Rinse Cup” is easy to use and helps you protect your infant’s eyes from shampoo, soap, or water.

The smooth and soft handle makes it easy for you to hold and pour water on your baby’s head while protecting their face and eyes, a must-have for baby bathing.


It is made up of durable plastic material

This cup lets you rinse baby's hair while protect

It's drizzling (water game)

In big-box stores, you can easily find water toys that can be connected to your hose to produce a soft sprinkle of water. Children will enjoy the gentle sensation of water touching their skin. Hang the water toy on your fence, a wall, or your clothesline. Let babies and toddlers run or crawl under the water.

My outdoor reading nook

Transform your yard to create an extra special reading corner by depositing books here and there. Set a small tent in one corner. In another corner, deposit several cushions. Hang your parachute or blankets in another corner to create shade. Add books that you have borrowed from the library, books you already have, and a few recently purchased books in each area.

Happy outdoor exploration and relaxation!

Set Up A Magic Potion Making Station

Practice pouring water and stirring or mixing techniques

I love magic-potion making stations for many reasons.

They’re a use-what-you-have-on-hand kind of thing. No need to go out and buy special materials — just dig around in your recycling box, craft drawer and yard and use whatever you find.

  1. They encourage creativity and open-ended play. There’s no right or wrong way to use the materials and there’s no prescribed outcome — the child is truly in the driver’s seat.

  2. In addition to being really fun and engaging, creating fairy potions also promotes the exploration of many skills and concepts. Little ones get to work on their pouring skills, experiment with color theory, explore the concepts of sink and float and see water displacement in action, too!

Not bad for just a "fun" activity, right?

Glass bottles, bottles of glitter and bowls filled with petals, grasses and coloured water.

What You'll Need

  • old bottles and jars

  • a small pitcher of water

  • liquid watercolors or food coloring

  • glitter and/or sequins

  • grass, weeds, flower petals and other plant bits

  • a chopstick for stirring

  • a smock or old shirt

  • an old towel or shower curtain to protect your work surface

Setting this activity up is a breeze: just cover your work surface with an old towel or shower curtain and set out the potion making materials!

A young girl concentrates as she pours glitter into a jar of potion.

Once things are set up (our one and only rule for creating potions is that the supplies have to stay on the towel, but you know your children and comfort levels best), you can truly step back and let your children go.

Inevitably, they’ll create all kinds of beautiful concoctions that sparkle in the sun and want to tell you all about them.

A jar of coloured water layered with glitter and plant bits! It's a fully complete potion!

And if they’re anything like mine, they may enjoy making fairy potions SO much that they’ll eventually set up an outdoor "magic potion shop" and spend hours out there playing. This is a fairy potion that keeps giving.

Science Play Ideas:
Exploring Simple Sound

Our Materials…

Items to shake to make noise:

  • Two small, clear juice bottles – one with a small collection of buttons, the other a small amount of macaroni. The lids are fastened securely. If you are worried that your baby or toddler might be able to remove a lid, be sure to glue it into place or to choose items that do not constitute a choking hazard.

  • A wooden curtain ring with four bells securely attached with short lengths of ribbon (see below)

  • A wooden curtain ring with four plastic shower curtain rings attached (see below)

  • Two small plastic canisters with lids – one with a small amount of rice and the other with sand

Childhood 101 | Baby Play Activities -Exploring Sounds Treasure Basket

Items to tap and bang:

  • A soup spoon

  • A wooden tapping stick from a commercial instrument

  • Two pot lids from toy pots – one metal, one plastic

  • One metal toy pot

  • Two flat stones (AJ likes to tap stones together)

  • One seashell

Childhood 101 | Activities for Babies -Exploring Sound Treasure Basket

First to capture her interest were the juice bottles. AJ would shake one and then the other, then return to the first. As she continued to explore the other objects in the basket she would return again and again to shaking the bottles. They have quickly become much loved ‘toys’ and I will definitely be adding more with different objects inside that generate a range of different sounds when shaken.

Childhood 101 | Activities for Babies -Exploring Sounds Treasure Basket

The curtain ring shakers are carefully examined.

Childhood 101 | Play Activity Ideas for Babies -Exploring Sounds Treasure Basket

The spoon is used to bang the pot and the juice bottles. The wooden tapping stick is enthusiastically banged on many of the objects in the basket.

Childhood 101 | Play Activities for Babies -Exploring Sounds Treasure Basket

It’s wonderful to watch her compare the noises made as she bangs on one object and then another.

One thing I have enjoyed with this basket is watching Immy come along later to explore the basket herself, interacting with AJ and exposing her to even more ways to combine the objects to make noise (for example, banging the pot lids together). This basket has been lots of shaky, bangy, tappy, noisy fun!


 All of these ideas can be used to engage your baby’s senses and to connect with your child as well.  I’ll explain the learning that can happen when you and baby play these simple games using one basic toy!

Exploring sound with baby from Happilyevermom

I gathered all of our baby toys that rattle which included our DIY sensory bottle (it makes such a unique sound when you shake it!).  But, all you need is one rattle to play the games.  I started by letting my son see the basket of toys.  He looked away and smiled at first, but as soon as I left the basket alone, I started to here him shaking all of the toys!

**Tip: I’ve found over the years that arranging toys together by theme helps to engage babies and children longer than if their toys are scattered or clumped together in a box.  Visual impact is important – catch their interest with a beautiful arrangement of toys!

Then, let them explore!  They can take them out by themselves, or you can do it for them if they aren’t picking toys up yet.  Enjoy the simplicity of this age and explain each toy as you hold it.

For example, say something like: “This is a rattle. It makes a sound when you shake, shake, shake!”

It might sound basic, but there is so much learning for baby in these little moments.  Once you and your baby have explored the sensory basket, take baby’s favorite toy and play these great games to extend her interest.

Engaging Baby’s Sense of Hearing

1.) Shake it:  Shake baby’s favorite toy that makes a sound by her right ear.  When she looks toward it, shake it by her other ear.  Shake the rattle above her head, then behind her back.  Where did it go? (That’s a question for baby, by the way ;-))

2.) Hide it: Place baby’s favorite rattle inside of a box or inside another object.  Shake and listen – does it makes a different sound??  Let baby explore the box and shake it on her own.  Can she open the box yet?  If not, open the box and encourage her to reach for the toy.  Try cupping the rattle in between your hands.  Shake and see if baby can peel back your fingers to find it (make sure to start revealing the rattle slowly if she doesn’t know where it went to encourage her engagement!).

3.) Roll it: Shake the rattle and roll it on the ground. Can baby crawl to it yet?  If not, can she track the object?  Roll multiple objects around her.  Which one does she notice and reach for?  Give her the one that she notices the most and roll the objects again.

4.) Find it: First, shake the rattle where it is visible, then continue to shake and place it behind your back.  Can baby find it or crawl to it?  If baby is mobile, try shaking while you move and see if baby follows.  **Tip: Be sure to let her have the rattle before too long so that she doesn’t loose interest!

5.) Sing it: Sing songs like row, row, row your boat, the itsy bitsy spider, or twinkle, twinkle little star along with baby’s favorite rattle.  Can she have one and shake along with you?

Learning Objectives:

  • Baby gradually learns that objects don’t just disappear, but rather, they maintain a permanent space (Object permanence)

  • Hand eye coordination as baby reaches for the rattle

  • Improve tracking of objects as you move the rattle from ear to ear, to overhead, and to behind your back

  • Explore basic rhythm and timing as you sing with baby

  • Gross Motor development as baby chases for the rolling rattle

  • Fine Motor development as baby grasps the rattle

  • Social/Emotional development as baby learns that the more they interact (through eye contact, smiles, coos, etc.), themore you will interact with them (continue to play the game, talking to them, smiling, etc.)

  • Repeat, repeat, repeat – help baby learn by playing the games over and over

Most importantly,

baby learns that being with you

– Mom, Dad, family member, caregiver –

is loving, interactive, and fun!

 The first year of a baby’s life is about feeling secure and safe with the people that they love.  There is

no better way to teach them this valuable gift than through meaningful, interactive play! 

Now, get out there and play with that beautiful baby of yours!!

Where Can We Explore Nature? Everywhere!

Daughter on her mother's back riding piggyback outside

by Donna Satterlee, Grace Cormons, and Matt Cormons

When we imagine nature, we often think about our own part of the country. Nature is everywhere. Here are some ideas for wherever you might live, whatever the season.

At the beach: Dig down into the sand to find the water level. Look for small creatures while you dig. Look for changes in the color and texture of the sand and observe the size of the sand granules. Notice the colors in shells. Look for bird and crab tracks.

In the desert: Look for animal tracks, flowers after spring rains, and water sources. If possible, compare the dry desert to the desert after the rain.
In the woods Climb a tree. (Although children rarely climb above where they are comfortable on their own, you will sense when to draw the line, if necessary.) Swing on a vine or play seesaw with a strong branch balanced on a log. Build a fort with fallen branches.

In the snow: Dress appropriately in layers, and then make snow people and snow horses. Pretend to ride the snow horse. Make a snow fort.

In your backyard: Plant a garden and observe the flowers and vegetables as they grow. Watch for visitors, such as birds, insects, toads, lizards, squirrels, rabbits, or deer.

In a vacant lot: Look for weeds, seeds, and evidence of animal life like: 

  • Scat (the technical name used by naturalists for animal droppings)

  • Animal tracks

  • Feathers

  • Wood that an animal has gnawed (such as a tree that has marks from a beaver’s teeth)

  • Holes in the ground (from a dog, a squirrel, a mole, or an armadillo)

  • Holes in the trees (from a woodpecker or insects)

Near a pond’s edge: Watch for birds and dragonflies taking off and landing or for frogs jumping in the pond. Bring a little net to dip in the water and ask your child to share her discoveries with you. Even if you don’t know what the creatures are, you can discuss what you see (legs or no legs, scales or no scales, antennae or other body parts, wing colors) and what you hear (fish splashing, insects buzzing, frogs calling).


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