Babies and Nature: Encouraging Early Connections with the Outdoors

Babies and Nature: Encouraging Early Connections with the Outdoors

Through my time working in early years settings, I have been lucky enough to look after babies. New to the planet, I found it special interacting with them and shaping their world.

A baby hand holding an adult hand.

During my studies, I learnt of the rapid development babies endure during the first year of life. From learning to walk, talk and socialise – their little brains are forever learning. I enjoyed watching their faces light up when they learnt something new… They could experience so much joy from the tiniest thing – something I feel adults should remember. Sometimes looking at life through the eyes of someone younger can teach us a lot and allow us to be much happier in our lives.

Smiling baby outside.

So? How does nature affect babies? Firstly, the sensory experience of the outside world allows babies to tune into new sounds, sights, and smells, allowing them to learn about the world. This connects them to life itself – vegetables growing, spiders weaving webs, the call of a mother bird to it’s young; these are all opportunities to discover the wonders of life, unavailable inside. There is a huge difference in seeing a picture in a book to actually looking at it close up. Experiencing something in person is far more memorable than seeing an image on a page.

Baby touching a daisy.

Another positive affect nature has on our babies, is the chance to breathe in fresh air and drift off to natural sounds.  Interestingly and far less common in the UK, many parents in Nordic countries let their babies sleep outside in subzero temperatures. This practice is not without risks… Parents put precautions into place to prevent their babies from developing hypothermia for example. Precautions may include placing a thermometer in the buggy, keeping an eye on their baby as they sleep, making sure that their babies are properly dressed (for example; insulated clothing and gloves) and, if it rains or snows, ensuring the buggy is weather resistant. Although this sounds quite daunting, this practice does bring many benefits to our babies. It is said to support better sleep, prevent colds and allow babies to breathe in fresh air. As the Swedes say, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Baby wearing hat and gloves.

Spending time in nature also allows babies to develop a stronger immune system. Through exposure to new environments and a variation of weather conditions, babies get the opportunity to breathe in fresh air and interact with a non-sterile environment, thus allowing them to build up their immune system and help them to fight germs. 

Baby with feet in water.

The list of benefits goes on and on, but I wanted to complete this blog with the notion that spending time outside gives babies a good chance of growing up with a close bond with nature. By creating positive experiences in nature with our babies, we can teach them of the value of the outside world and hopefully this will stay with them throughout their lives…

Baby outside.

Written by Julianne Jessett

Staff Photo

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