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