Experts say children should spend time outside for at least three hours a day. This seems reasonable until you find yourself trying to wrangle a baby or toddler who wants to consume every stick, snail, leaf, and piece of dirt within reach. While it may be more challenging to explore the great outdoors with your little one, it’s not impossible. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind the next time you head outside with a baby that puts everything in their mouth.
1. Contain ‘em
If your baby is sitting up and/or crawling but not walking just yet, you are in the sweet spot for setting up a play yard in your backyard. Add your favorite blankets and you can simulate a safe indoor environment, outdoors! Glamping, if you will. Bring toys, books or bubbles to the party or simply lie back and watch the trees sway, birds fly and the clouds drift. Don’t forget the hat and SPF!
2. Take a neighborhood walk
I love the idea of slow parenting. This philosophy encourages parents to give children ample time to explore, instead of rushing from one activity to the next. My daughter and I love taking walks in our neighborhood. It’s a very slow walk, so I’m able to monitor and guide her along the way as she squats down to watch a roly-poly crawling in the grass, gently feel the flowers blooming in our front yard, or simply examine a crack in the sidewalk. Like a baby that puts everything in their mouth, if left my daughter to her own devices, she’d definitely make a snack out of the bugs and flowers.
But, she’s quite responsive when I ask her to just look, or hand me whatever she’s grasped in her hands. If your child isn’t walking yet, or you want to go a farther distance than they are capable, buckle them up in the stroller or a wagon and make frequent stops to actually smell the roses.
3. Hit up the playground
For whatever reason, my child is on much better behavior when we’re out and about doing something new, rather than sitting at home with the same old routine. If you find yourself at war with a toddler in your own backyard, constantly chasing after him or her to prevent the consumption of worms and pollen, you could both benefit from a change in scenery. Head to your neighborhood playground with friends, or strike up conversations with the other parents at the playscape.
Even though she’s not quite big enough to play on the equipment yet, my daughter loves swinging, observing the bigger kids, and simply running around. What better way to let your child release pent-up energy before bedtime?
4. Go on a hike
If you live in an area with hiking trails, there’s nothing better than wearing your child in a carrier on the path. Whether forward-facing or strapped to your back, your baby can observe everything from a comfortable vantage point. Best of all, you have the option to go at your own pace and squeeze in a hands-free workout without pushing a bulky stroller!
While you’ll watch your tiny tot like a hawk no matter what, I’ve found these various environments make it a little easier to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about your baby that puts everything in their mouth. How do you like to spend time outside with your little ones?
Katie McCall is a lifestyle portrait photographer, content strategist, and producer based in San Antonio, Texas. When she isn’t behind a camera or laptop, she's exploring the world with her husband, darling one-year-old daughter and tiny pup. If you’d like, please follow their adventures on Instagram (@hersideproject)!