10 reasons to bring your baby outside

There’s a Scandinavian saying that “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing,” and while the US is in a subzero polar vortex that definitely qualifies as bad weather, overall I agree. Parents are often surprised that I take babies outside almost every day in all weather, but for me the benefits of nature far outweigh the hassle of trying to get tiny fingers into mittens or applying sunscreen to a squirmy toddler. Here are ten benefits to taking babies outside.


Image: bare baby legs standing in a field of grass and clover.

Image: bare baby legs standing in a field of grass and clover.

1. Sitting, standing, crawling and walking on uneven surfaces requires balance, coordination, and core strength. You could invest in expensive climbing equipment for indoors… or you could just go to the park!

Image: Two babies in snowsuits sitting and crawling in about an inch of fresh snow.

Image: Two babies in snowsuits sitting and crawling in about an inch of fresh snow.

2. Snow, dirt, mud, grass, flowers, sand, rocks and more become sensory materials that sharpen babies’ sense of touch and fine motor skills.

3. If you have access to garden spaces, babies can eat a variety of fruits and vegetables straight from the earth, giving more interest and variety than pre-made purees.

Image: the feet of two babies sleeping outside in a red double stroller.

Image: the feet of two babies sleeping outside in a red double stroller.

4. Fresh air means better sleep. Throughout Europe, babies nap outdoors, even in winter, and I’ve found that getting outside leads to great naps, even for little babies.

5. Early experiences in nature set babies up for a lifetime appreciation of the environment.

Image: a baby in an orange sun hat crawls in the grass and fallen leaves.

Image: a baby in an orange sun hat crawls in the grass and fallen leaves.

6. The variety of sounds outdoors are endless - even in a city, babies can hear trains, helicopters, sirens, and dogs barking as well as more natural sounds. Nature is also the ideal place for babies to exercise their voices and I encourage you to let babies (and older kids) be as loud as they like outside.

7. The great outdoors lends itself to lots of rough and tumble gross motor play that involves the whole body (and bonus, will tire them out for a great nap!).

Image: a view of a blue sky through tree branches and leaves.

Image: a view of a blue sky through tree branches and leaves.

8. Weather is a fascination for babies who are experiencing everything for the first time. We tend to keep babies’ environments perfectly temperature controlled and sterile, but with proper clothing and for short times, babies can take in snow, wind, rain, heat or fog. Even thunderstorms can be watched with fascination from inside.

Image: A baby in a pink sunhat and orange dress sits in the grass and plays with a handful of grass clippings.

Image: A baby in a pink sunhat and orange dress sits in the grass and plays with a handful of grass clippings.

9. The materials found in nature are completely open ended and allow babies to explore and play however they like, developing creativity and independence.

10. Dirt is healthy! Scientific studies show that babies exposed to dirt and animals before age 1 are less likely to develop asthma and allergies. This idea even has a name - the “hygiene hypothesis.”

Image: a baby in winter clothes sits in the dirt and dead grass.

Image: a baby in winter clothes sits in the dirt and dead grass.

As winter turns to spring, bring your babies outside and see them blossom!

play prompt 13

Montessori discovery basket

The Montessori-inspired discovery basket or treasure basket is a play prompt that allows babies to safely explore a variety of everyday items and simple toys. Look for 5-10 objects that provide a variety of sensory experiences - soft and spiky, metal and wood, quiet and loud. This activity is perfect for babies who are sitting up but not very mobile yet.

Materials:

babies and food allergies - tips and recipes

When I started working with babies, we had a list of top food allergens to avoid posted on the wall of the infant classroom. In the past decade, however, the advice has completely reversed, and research now suggests that babies should be introduced to commonly allergenic foods as soon as possible to help protect against food allergies. Baby Led Weaning (BLW), or giving babies finger food instead of purees, has also become very popular in the last few years, so here are some tips on how to introduce the top 8 food allergens to babies no matter how they're fed.

Milk 

Purees: plain Greek yogurt is high in protein and a baby favorite on its own or mixed with fruit purees.

BLW: cubes of cheese like mozzarella or cheddar are a healthy snack - but if giving string cheese be sure to cut it lengthwise to avoid a choking hazard.

 

Eggs

Purees: soft scrambled eggs can be mashed and mixed with veggie purees.

BLW: eggs can be hardboiled, scrambled, or made into omelettes (a great way to add in veggies to a meal!)

 

Peanuts

Purees: stir a spoonful of peanut butter into oatmeal or mix with mashed banana.

BLW: Bamba are a puff-like Israeli peanut butter snack that have single-handedly reduced the rate of peanut allergies in Israel because they’re so popular with children. They’re now available in the US at Trader Joe’s or online.

 

Tree nuts

Purees: almond butter can be used like peanut butter as an add-in to purees or oatmeal.

BLW: ground almond meal can be used in baking in place of flour.

 

Soy

Purees: use soy milk to make cereal, or mix silken tofu into pureed veggies.

BLW: edamame make a healthy, soy-based snack, and many BLW kids are surprisingly willing to eat cubes of tofu!

 

Wheat

Purees: teething biscuits made with wheat flour can be introduced while baby is still on purees.

BLW: this is an easy one - any type of wheat cracker, bread, pancake, muffin, etc will do!

 

Fish and shellfish

Purees: flaked fish can be mixed with vegetable purees, or use fish stock if you have it on hand.

BLW: babies can be given fish as table food, just watch out for bones, which are a choking hazard.

Image: an assortment of vegetables around a bowl of pureed baby food. Credit: Pixabay, CC0 licensed.

Image: an assortment of vegetables around a bowl of pureed baby food. Credit: Pixabay, CC0 licensed.

top 5 baby care myths, busted

Parenting has changed a lot since our parents or grandparents were raising their kids, and science is offering us new understanding of all sorts of aspects of infant care every day. Unfortunately, there's so much parenting advice out there that scientific fact and up to date recommendations can get lost among the outdated information and old wives' tales. Here are 5 common myths about babies and the science-based best practices you should be doing instead!

1. Avoid introducing high risk allergens until age 2.

Recent research actually shows that early introduction of highly allergenic foods like peanuts, eggs, shellfish, etc, makes kids less likely to develop a food allergy.  Doctors noticed that Israeli kids had much lower rates of peanut allergies than those in other regions and linked it to the popularity of peanut butter Bamba puffs as an early finger food for babies. The current recommendation is to introduce a variety of solid foods, including nuts and other risky foods, starting at 6 months.  Nuts and peanut butter can be a choking hazard for young children, though, so try nut butters spread on crackers, stirred into oatmeal, or baked into muffins.

2. Babies who sleep on their backs can choke if they spit up in bed.

According to the AAP, there is no increased risk of choking or aspiration for babies who sleep on their backs, and babies who sleep on their stomachs are at a higher risk for SIDS and suffocation related deaths.  Remember the ABCs of safe infant sleep: babies should sleep Alone on their Backs in a Crib.

3. Flashcards, Baby Einstein videos, and other "educational" tools help babies learn language.

Nope.  The way babies learn to speak is from you!  Studies show that Baby Einstein videos have no benefit to language development.  Talking naturally and reading with your baby, on the other hand, is shown over and over again to be the best way to foster your baby's language development.

4. Rear facing car seats are uncomfortable for kids.

Many parents turn their baby's car seat to face forwards early because they feel their child will be more comfortable or less fussy, but rear facing is perfectly comfortable for babies, toddlers and even preschoolers.  More importantly, rear facing kids are up to 500% safer than forward facing!  Best practice is to rear face until at least age 2, preferably closer to age 4.  Pro tip: many babies dislike the bucket style infant car seats, so if you have a fussy baby, try switching to a convertible seat instead of turning baby around!

5. Putting cereal in a baby's bottle will help them sleep through the night.

Not only does it make no difference to baby sleep, adding cereal to bottles can actually be dangerous itself for several reasons.  Cereal in bottles is a choking hazard, interferes with babies' natural hunger cues, and consists of nutritionally empty calories.  Healthy sleep routines and development are what cause babies to sleep through the night, not solid food.