Nature Play for Everyone Work / Play / Leisure Suitable for stages: Pregnancy, 0 - 3 Months, 3 - 6 Months, 6 - 12 Months, 12 - 18 Months, 18 - 24 Months
Have you ever felt energised when in natural environments, then experienced the come-down when you go indoors? If yes, you have experienced first-hand the health and wellbeing benefits of doing activity in nature or just being in any natural environment. It doesn't matter how old you are, the benefits are universal. During pregnancy is an especially great time to realise these benefits and change your habits to incorporate more time outdoors. Otherwise, there is no time like today to start to make changes!
Some of the many benefits of being in nature include:
- Multi-sensory stimulation
- Breathing clean(er) air
- Sunlight exposure for hormone regulation and vitamin D intake
- Exposure to environmental microbes to support nutrition, digestion & the immune system
- An environment that promotes incidental exercise
If you can find some natural environments around your area that you enjoy, such as picnic areas, green spaces such as parks or nature walks, gardens, the beach/river/waterhole. Make it a habit to get yourself outside more when you have the opportunity. If these places are within walking distance, even better, you can get some extra exercise to walk there.
If you have places you are familiar with and feel motivated to visit as a habit, this can give you the motivation and feel easier to get out. Getting out every day you can helps you to re-balance and re-energise.
These places become places you can bring your baby to experience the same health benefits and engage in nature play. Going out with a baby seems such a huge feat, it seems easier to stay at home. At the same time, staying inside can start to feel like the 4 walls start to close in on you and the mental to-do list you compile as you look around your space can start the overwhelm.
For days when it is impossible to get out to go anywhere; having an outdoor space around your home will be invaluable. Somewhere you can sit and relax or walk around barefoot where you can immerse yourself in nature could be enough to boost your energy and mood.
Connection with other living things
Part of the benefits of natural environments is touching other living things including plants and animals. The simple act of putting your hands and feet on the earth can help to ground your body. This part of the joy of gardening and why it is so relaxing and energising. It also is a creative activity where you are shaping the spaces around you into somewhere you enjoy being. Being connected in a multisensory way to other living things is part of the experience. The more senses you can stimulate, the better, including sight, smell/olfactory, sound, touch, & feeling the breeze or sun on your skin.
Having a connection with animals can serve to connect us with nature which can be enjoyed indoors and out. Pets are recognised as being highly therapeutic and can help us to live in the moment. Their love of nature motivates us to take them in nature for walks and to play. If you don’t have a pet, you can still connect with animals around your local area and enjoy seeing them in their natural habitat. It's as simple as opening your eyes and ears to start to notice all the life around you, observe them, appreciate their beauty and bring your awareness into the moment.
Walking can be one of the simplest things you can do that has a big effect on how you feel. If you are walking somewhere away from a major road, try walking without headphones to benefit from hearing the sounds of nature. Try to be truly present to have a mindful moment with gratitude.
Experiencing nature as a family
Babies and young children benefit from being in nature. It is the original multi-sensory learning environment. Sometimes a fussy baby can be settled by taking them outside. Suddenly they have a change of scenery. They can feel the breeze on their skin, a change in temperature, new sounds, a change in brightness where they quieten down. If you sit or lay a baby on the ground, they will explore the grass or plants around them, touch and grab everything to see what it feels like, test out its properties & notice any creatures crawling or flying past them.
Letting your children play in nature at any age has many benefits. According to Nature Play Australia, “unstructured play outdoors (nature play) is fundamental to a full and healthy childhood...from it flow benefits in health, cognitive, social and emotional development and in the building of resilience and creativity”. If you need any more convincing, The first five years website has a great article on the benefits of nature play for children. The Many Benefits of Learning in Nature is described on the Montessori Nature website. Check out if there are any nature playgroups in your area and find out some simple ways to get more outdoor play in your days, such as the apps and resources suggested here.
If you love walking on nature trails or just anywhere that doesn’t have a footpath suitable for a stroller, a great carrier will be invaluable. If your toddler is starting to outgrow their carrier and you know they won’t be able to walk the whole way, you can get a toddler carrier that will fit them until 3 or 4 years and give you a workout at the same time. Just make sure you bring along enough food and water for everyone.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from opening your senses to the world around you. The opportunities you provide to your child will support their innate love of nature and contribute to the whole family’s happiness, wellbeing and health.
Please note: Above all, any information on this website aims to provide general ideas for informational and educational purposes only. We encourage users to investigate several information sources, including, where necessary, independent individualised medical advice before making any decisions that could affect you or your child’s health or wellbeing.
BabyPeg participates in various affiliate programs and may earn a commission for referring our users through the links provided. This is at no additional cost to our users. We take great care in choosing products and services which align with the mission of promoting better health and wellness for our BabyPeg community. Where possible, products are tried and tested by us. To continue to provide BabyPeg as a free service and reach as many parents as possible, we appreciate your support in using the link provided to purchase if you decide the product is right for you.