When planning activities for older children, you may think that your infant is too young to benefit from appreciable time spent outdoors. While babies should never be left unattended outside, the fact is, they are never too young to benefit from being outside. Safety is the first consideration, so when creating opportunities for outdoor play, look for soft, natural surfaces that are level, and with no items that can be pulled or tipped over. 

Babies love to watch family members and animals in nature, and even the wind can cause movement that will captivate a baby’s attention. Just as with older children and adults, babies constantly receive sensory stimulation. These early experiences in nature create the foundation for later development. Even at just a few months of age, time in nature contributes massively to a child’s long-term physical, mental, and emotional health. 

As your child grows, put some thought into the first surfaces he or she will learn to stand and walk upon. Grass, mulch, stepping stones and wooden boards all create interesting textures to balance on. Walking barefoot on sand and gravel will exercise foot and leg muscles. Steps, ramps and bridges teach navigation, and work entirely opposite sets of muscles. 

Older toddlers and preschoolers love ride-on toys. Balance bikes and tricycles foster balance and coordination. Creating pathways with different textures, short paths to follow, and small tunnels to pass through adds interest and keeps riders engaged. 

Lastly, all but the tiniest of babies love a slide. Slides teach children how to control their body’s movements as they move through the world. Younger children need hands-on supervision at all times, but as they get older and better able to walk and move on their own, allow them to navigate their own way down, with minimal intervention.  


Information taken from the book “Nature Play at Home” by Nancy Striniste, 2019 Timber Press