Today’s a good day for a walk.
There’s something magical that happens when children go outside, they just seem more peaceful. Babies stop crying and start gazing, toddlers happily run in circles and begin to explore.
10 ways your child is learning as you walk…
- In the snuggly, your newborn will feel your heart rate increase as you walk briskly, fondly reminding her of that time not so long ago when she was so closely connected to you in every way. She’ll love the sensory input of your heartbeat.
- Babies really enjoy looking at all the new sights when you go outside – everything is different! The colors, the movement, the moving light. It’s a whole new world visually!
- As you walk your baby using a snuggly or infant carrier, they’ll enjoy the rhythm of your movements. This vestibular input helps coordinate movement between the eyes, head and body, helping your baby develop a sense of balance and visual-spacial perception.
- When we go outside, the big, open air just feels different and elicits interest as your baby looks around and takes it all in. It’s old hat to you, the smell of rain or someone grilling in the backyard. But for your baby, it may be their first time to ever experience that!
- Sounds are totally different outside. Cars going by, birds chirping, airplanes, dogs barking, lawnmowers – all these sounds give you a chance to talk to your baby and give words to describe what they’re hearing. “Do you hear Cooper barking? I think he hears us walking by on the sidewalk. He’s saying hello!” As you narrate what your baby is experiencing, you’re helping with language development.
- Neural connections are different when we go outside. Sensory stimulation is less rapid, more fluid, allowing a ‘pause’ of sorts. This enhances brain development and can even affect a child’s behavior (see reference below)
- When you push your baby in a stroller, they experience the world from a different perspective – you’re behind, they hear you speaking but they’re approaching the world independently. This perspective will help as they develop self-awareness.
- Toddlers and older children who walk on their own have lots of chances to discover and learn as they walk around the block. There’s countless opportunities for physical development as they walk keeping rhythm with your steps, jump over cracks on the sidewalk, run ahead, hop instead of walk and all the other beautiful ways children naturally “practice” their emerging physical skills.
- And of course, as they walk, they’ll stop to look at bugs and other critters along the way, picking up sticks and other stuff, smelling flowers, noticing patterns along the way. All these ‘treasures’ support math and science in a spontaneous, self-discovery method of learning.
- Walking with your child is not a fast process, like the brisk walk you take to get a little exercise. Slow down, allowing time to inspect storm drains, weeds in sidewalk cracks and other fascinating things along the way. This natural intellectual curiosity is how your child takes in new information and draws conclusions about the world. Allow lots of time for pauses along the way.
Research has found that being playing outdoors improves children’s ability to concentrate, improves coordination and encourages creativity. It even helps children think more clearly and cope with stress better, especially those who might lean a little towards attention challenges like ADD or ADHD.
Adding my own two cents to these findings, I think being outside helps me concentrate, think better and cope with stress too! In fact, any chance I get I do my computer work sitting outdoors – somehow I just think more clearly there. 🙂
So take 20 minutes for a walk around the block – whether that’s a city block full of hustle and bustle or in a quiet neighborhood – and soak in the goodness.
And breathe. You’ve got this parenting thing. You are EXACTLY what your baby needs.
Until next time,