As we talk about a lot at Tots Play, when it comes to supporting your new baby's development, things you may think of as simple are often the most effective. Going out for a walk with your little one is a great example.
While they are still tiny, your first instinct might be to keep your baby indoors as much as possible. But although you might think this is the safer option, health professionals will tell you that spending time outside can actually be healthy and have some great benefits for your newborn. And what better way to enjoy the great outdoors than by going on a walk? You'd be surprised how much fun a stroll around the corner could be for your baby. Not only does this open their eyes to new possibilities, but it also provides a fantastic way for you both to bond.
Of course, the key here is to go out prepared for every little adventure. Things like dressing your newborn in appropriate clothes for the weather, equipping yourselves with a buggy suitable for where you are going, and picking child-friendly locations, can make a big difference to the enjoyment of your outing for you both.
A sensory experience
Babies are the most curious creatures in the world. Because everything is so new to them, the simplest stroll can feel like an exciting journey. A walk outside provides a chance to explore and learn more about their surroundings — from the vibrant colours of flowers and the cool breeze, to the sounds of chirping birds and the fresh smell of leaves. These experiences are especially rich at this time of the year, as we previously discussed HERE in our previous blog post, all about nurturing your baby's senses in Spring, so now is an especially good time to get out and about.
But more than being a fantastic way to spend time stimulating their senses, heading outdoors also provides a wealth of benefits for your baby's cognitive development. In fact, according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Sciences Education and Research, the outdoor sensory experience can promote early language development, compared to spending time indoors. Simply talking to your baby as you walk and describing some of the things you are seeing and experiencing will really enhance the benefits of your walk.
While outside, your baby can get acquainted with the neighbourhood. The chances are, you'll bump into an old friend or two — or better yet, make new ones. Whoever you encounter, being outdoors can be a great social activity. Even just exchanging smiles or greeting strangers good morning can help your baby's social development, demonstrating speech patterns and how to interact with other people.
A chance to relax
If you sometimes struggle with putting your baby to sleep at night, save the extra bedtime story for now because a walk may just be the prescription you need. In a 2004 study in the Journal of Sleep, it was found that spending time around nature and under sunlight can help in establishing good sleeping patterns for babies. Even if you're just pushing them around in a stroller, the fresh air gives a certain calmness and relaxation that later translates to some quality shut-eye. And that can only mean a win/win for parents, too.
Healthy nature exposure
For optimum sunlight, go on an early morning walk right before the afternoon sun (at least during spring and summer). Sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D. But before you drench yourselves in the warmth, be sure you and your baby are wearing clothes that will keep your skin cool.
While you're outside, it is also important that your buggy is well equipped to handle the terrain, to ensure that your baby stays comfortable during your walk. iCandy points out that modern buggies are now designed to cope with a variety of surfaces— from the pavement to grassy areas. Should you decide to walk even further and hop on some public transport, lightweight buggies are great, because they are generally foldable or easy to manoeuvre onto buses or trains.
Quality time with your baby
If, like many, you're dealing with some challenges to your mental wellbeing in this postnatal period, the March of Dimes organisation recommends some outdoor time to help ease its effects. There truly is no better cure than nature, and the boost will help you enjoy the quality time with your baby. On top of this, it could also help improve your self-esteem and ward off any neonatal tension.
Another great place to find support through the huge transition to parenthood is at classes especially designed for young babies and parents, such as our Baby Development course. Not only will you be guided through a range of simple activities such as massage, tummy time play, calming techniques, sensory play and more to help you bond, play and communicate with your new bundle by a knowledgeable and caring class leader, you will also be around like-minded parents with babies of a similar age, people who completely understand the challenges, the overwhelm, and the joys of this period in your life and may even go on to become lifelong friends. Take a look to find your nearest class HERE.
Those new friends may make great companions for you and your baby on your next walk too. Happy Playing!
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