When is the right time to start digging into nature with your little one? The answer is simple. Right now.
You, mama, are the compass that guides your child in so many ways—and nature experiences are no different. A mother who is connected to the natural world will naturally have a child who is inclined to explore the outdoors.
Don't worry, it doesn't take much.
Pause a moment before getting in the car to watch dew sparkle on the grass.
Look up before going into the grocery store to spy the clouds in the sky.
Take a deep breath as you walk down the street feeling the wind in your face.
People often view talking about the weather as “small talk." But, there is a reason we talk about the weather—it is something that binds us together. It is a grand shared experience.
When children are young, they experience the weather on a deep sensory level. Indeed, their development depends on it! Playing with the weather is a wonderful way to stimulate the senses and connect with the natural world.
The next time you go outside with your tot, try a few of these activities to engage your child in nature—whatever weather the seasons bring.
Singing in the rain.
Rainy days transform the world in the subtlest ways. Drops hang like crystals from the trees, colors deepen and pop with vibrant tones, and creatures that love the wet world come out. A nature walk(or crawl) on a rainy day is an invitation to explore the wet and wonderful world brought on when clouds meet the earth.
Carrying baby to see and touch the hanging raindrops can prompt delight and wonder.
On a cool day, a well-dressed baby can explore the wet world by crawling through grass, getting an up-close look at and feel for the rain. On a warm rainy day, it is all the more fun to get out and explore the wet world with as little on as possible!
Toddlers can create a rain orchestra with pots and pans when the rain hits the overturned surfaces.
Puddle jumping is a classic rainy day activity that will never lose appeal for little explorers. Just remember to keep a change of clothes in the car, so you don't fret about the mess!
Walking in a windy wonderland.
Wind can provide fuel for wonderful explorations. Whether making ripples on a pond or making things move up, up,and away, wind is an invisible force with a big impact. Even the littlest explorer can appreciate the refreshing feeling of a cool breeze on a warm day.
Babies, toddlers, and grownups alike will delight in making the illusive breeze a little more tangible with bubbles. Blow bubbles on a windy day and see the wind in action.
Another way to see the wind is by watching clouds move across the sky, changing shape as they go.
Flying kites is a classic activity that's a favorite for good reason. There is nothing quite like feeling the pull of the wind as it lifts a kite into the sky. With a little help, a toddler can easily feel this tension created by the wind and even wonder…What would happen if I let go?
It's gonna be a bright, sunshiny day.
The warmth of the sun can be quite calming for even the littlest among us. Sunny days can reveal a world filled with bright contrasts and shadows to play with. Although sunny days often bring up thoughts of the beach or running through the sprinkler, there is so much more to explore on a sunny day!
Shadow watching is a wonderful sunny day pastime. Seeing the shadows of trees dance on the grass can be deeply entertaining, even for the biggest kids.
Encourage your child to join the dancing shadows by jumping from shadow to shadow, trying to keep up with the wind and sun moving those shadows around.
Tracking shadows is a fun way to provide your child a real look at the movement of the earth in relation to the sun. Deep concepts for a tot, I know, but these experiences lay a foundation to build upon as your child's relationship to the natural world grows.
To track shadows, help your child make note of where a shadow is cast (draw an outline of the shadow with chalk or use rocks as markers) and re-visit your shadow throughout the day. Make note of movements and talk about why it is moving. Just remember to avoid looking directly at the sun—it can damage your eyes!
Baby, it's cold outside.
Although the inclination to hibernate during cold weather is strong, fight the pull and get outside to delve into the amazing wonders that winter has to share. With the right gear, even babies can have great fun exploring the cold and icy world.
Taking a walk to feel frost and ice is a great way to take note of the smooth, bumpy, and prickly textures of ice. Take those mittens off for just a few minutes and let your child explore the amazing textures created by water and cool temperatures.
When snow starts to fall, bundle up your tot (making sure to take a potty break ahead of time), get out, and encourage your child to capture a few flakes on their tongue, let it fall on their face, and delight in the magical way snow dresses up the world.
Watching ice float is another amazing phenomenon. Your young tot may not fully understand this extraordinary occurrence yet. But, that won't dampen their excitement over creating “icebergs" to float in water. This is yet another activity that helps to build a foundation for your child's explorations for years to come.
Getting outside, whatever the weather, can open up whole new worlds to explore for you and your child—no matter how young! Just remember the old adage…There's no such thing as bad weather—only bad clothing choices.
Have fun out there!