Having an appreciation for nature is a priceless gift. Our health depends on the outside world; trees provide us with oxygen, sunlight provides us with the majority of our vitamin D intake, and there’s nothing like fresh air to reduce sluggishness. But it’s easy to take nature for granted these days, particularly when we’re constantly surrounded by technology. If you’re determined to get your child to develop a love of nature, it’s never too early to try these tips.
Take them for walks
Whether they’re walking or still in the pushchair, getting them out in the fresh air will introduce them to all the sights, smells and sounds of nature. No matter their age, they’ll enjoy you talking to them about all the natural wonders around you from trees and flowers to rivers and animals. There are all kinds of things you can do in nature with your baby that don’t cost a thing. Picnics, feeding the ducks, building sand castles collecting things to examine at home and playing in the park are all great outdoor activities to encourage your baby to explore.
Give them nature-themed toys
If they have toys resembling creatures or other things they might find outside, they’ll soon make associations when they see the real thing. The familiarity will provide something of a comfort, because some things can be quite daunting to encounter - particularly insects and animals. The sooner they make positive associations with these things, the more comfortable they’ll be in a natural environment as they get older.
Watch nature shows together
Not only are nature shows so relaxing and perfect for bed and nap times, they are also a great way to expose your baby to the natural world whilst still in the comfort of your own home. They may not necessarily take in much of what’s happening, but they can still enjoy the scenes and strange animals.
Let them touch natural things
Getting your baby to handle things like stones, leaves, twigs, feathers, pinecones, shells and flowers is one of the best ways you can get your baby to connect with nature. Be careful not to disturb any habitats and make sure the objects you are touching are relatively clean, blunt and there are no signs of animal droppings. If you’re worried about your baby putting things in their mouth, you can try making sure they have a dummy in their mouth while they’re handling things, and ensure that they are in reach at all times. Letting them feel grass and water on their bare feet is also a great way to introduce them to the sensations of nature.
Read books about nature
There are so many board books out there with natural themes including popular tales like The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Peter Rabbit and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt to name but a few. These are a great way of teaching your child language, and once they start being able to use words for different things outside, you’ll have so much fun identifying familiar sights together and going on your own adventures.
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Sing songs and rhymes about nature
Babies love nothing more than listening to their parents sing nursery rhymes and learning accompanying actions. Next time you're out and about and you see a spider, use the opportunity to sing Incy Wincy Spider to your little one, or Lavender’s Blue or Ring A Ring O'Roses if you see some flowers. Here’s a few more popular rhymes to sing on nature walks:
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
Round and Round the Garden
I Had a Little Nut Tree
Little Robin Redbreast
Old Mac Donald Had A Farm
A Sailor Went To Sea
Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush