By Karen Clarkson, nature play advocate, mum of two and founder of The Outdoor Kids Project.
The natural world is loaded with endless opportunities for stimulating babies senses and it creates a powerful learning environment that can’t be replicated indoors. Research tells us that an increasing number of parents are keeping babies indoors too often.
And while we might be concerned that it’s too cold, they might get sick or it’s too much effort, the good news is that the benefits of outdoor play from an early age has been proven and not only does it provide a calming effect on the baby, but often for mums and dads too.
I’ve written a series of summer blogs to give you some key insights and personal tips to give you the confidence that prioritising daily outdoor time is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby. This is also a resource for you to share with your friends, family and your community and help spread the message on how important it is to teach, parent and grand-parent alongside nature every day.
Raising future guardians
Research shows empathy with and love of nature grows out of children’s regular contact with the natural world. By introducing our babies to the natural world from a young age, it can foster a lifelong love of wonder, exploration and conservation. Hands-on, informal, self-initiated exploration and discovery in local, familiar environments are often described as the best ways to engage and inspire children and cultivate a sense of wonder. These frequent, unstructured experiences in nature are the most common influence on the development of lifelong conservation values. And we all know, the earth needs more people advocating for it and making change, now more than ever before.
Improves maternal mental health
Many studies have shown the benefits of nature on mental health and maternal mental health is no different. When my first son was born, almost five years ago, he was an angel sleeper from birth to 12 weeks. But then the trouble started and I would struggle to get him to sleep well in his basinette in the day. He did thankfully sleep well between feeds at night, so I felt as though I couldn’t complain. But daytime naps were just non existent and I remember some days calling my husband at work at 4pm, crying, “He’s only slept for 45 minutes today! He’s supposed to be sleeping at least three times that much!”. I was mentally and physically drained so I took to the streets, the beach, the park and the bush and we spent our days outdoors. The New Zealand Mental Health Foundation survey confirmed that spending time in nature lifts people’s moods, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety and buffers against stress.
Making outdoor time a priority every day for parent and baby, can provide such an incredible benefits to you both and can be a lovely bonding experience.
If you’re interested in joining our community of Kiwi parents, and be inspired and educated on the importance of raising outdoor kids, and gain tips and tricks for getting outdoors every day, please join The Outdoor Kids Project on Instagram.
Karen Clarkson is a passionate nature play advocate, mother of two active boys and founder of The Outdoor Kids Project. As a new mum with a baby that hardly slept at home, she took to the streets, the park, the beach and the bush and experienced first hand the benefits of nature not only for her children, but for her own mental health. She created The Outdoor Kids Project to write, inspire and educate Kiwi parents on all things raising outdoor kids. She shares her daily adventures with her boys around New Zealand and hosts a guest post series called #realoutdoormums where she chats to outdoor mums, educators, teachers and professionals who share their tips, tricks and expert opinions on all things outdoor play, family adventures and nature education. You can join her community here.