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5 Fresh-Air Ways to Inspire Baby’s Love for Learning

Let nature nurture growth and curiosity

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Want to help your baby start honing her inborn thinking and reasoning skills? Head outdoors.
5 Fresh-Air Ways to Inspire Baby’s Love for Learning

These simple backyard explorations can spark your little one’s natural inquisitiveness and get her thinking like a scientist from the start.

1. Dig a Hole 

Find a rich, dark spot of earth, and show your baby how to plow into the ground with her fingers. Let her sift, squish, and scrub soil between her palms or under her highly sensitive soles. It’s messy, but worth it—just make sure she doesn’t put her hands in her mouth!

What Baby Learns
Babies learn through their senses—and the sense of touch is especially important in the first two years of life. A simple patch of soil provides powerful tactile stimulation, and your little one will soon learn that her sense of touch delivers lots of exciting information about the world around her: gritty sand scratches, and smooth stones cool her hands.

Add an Extra Wow

Fill the hole with water. Your baby can plunge her fingers and feet deep into the mud, giving her a chance to experience that magical suction sensation as she tries to pull them out again.

2. Lift a Rock

Lurking happily beneath hefty garden stones or loose driveway bricks is a wondrous ecosystem. Pry up those rocks to reveal spiders, pill bugs, beetles, centipedes, worms, and more. Instead of shooing critters away, squat down with your child to see how they scurry by when you shed light on their home.

What Baby Learns

This is your chance to teach your baby to observe, and then “tell” you what he sees (even if he is too young to articulate it). Point to one critter and imitate how it wiggles, scuttles, or slithers. Then help your baby to mimic the insect, too.

Add an Extra Wow

Punch holes in a jelly jar cap. Collect bugs and let your child observe. Release the specimens when you’re through.

3. Listen to Birds

Head outdoors, pause, and put your hand to your ear to listen for the sound of one or several birds chirping. Help your little one distinguish the sound of our feathered friends. Try to find one bird that’s singing so you can point it out. Chase after it if it flies away. Then wait quietly when the bird pauses its chirping and listen while other birds reply.

What Baby Learns 

Our world is filled with noise. When you draw attention to specific sights and sounds, you are teaching your baby to pay attention to details and to differentiate sounds.

Add an Extra Wow

Hang a bird feeder near a window or door so you can scout for birds together. Whenever one stops by for a meal, encourage your baby to listen to the sound the bird makes.

4. Smell Something Green (or Red, or Orange, or Yellow)

Pick flowers and leaves that have a noticeable scent, including honeysuckle, pine needles, oak leaves, even fistfuls of grass. Arrange them in an aromatic pile outdoors and supervise while your baby plays with them. Show your tot how to wrinkle his nose, breathe in, and relish the aroma.

What Baby Learns

At a time in life when little ones can’t judge things by size, shape, or color, you are giving your cutie another opportunity to use his sense of smell to discern objects.

Add an Extra Wow

Press favorite flowers by putting them between sheets of plain white paper and placing a heavy book on top. Change the paper every four days for four weeks until the flower is completely dried out. Then it can be preserved in a photo album. The part of the brain that controls scent also controls memory, so placing the flower with pictures reinforces memories of time you spent together.

5. Make Something Happen

Gather bits of nature from around your yard and create several homemade nature-based activities. Find a fistful of flexible (not dried-out) sticks and stems and assemble them in a pile that your baby can knock down or rearrange over and over again. Rig a simple ramp for a rolling-rock race, or a mini catapult to fling pinecones into the air.

What Baby Learns

Your cutie will begin to understand that if she does this then that will happen. She will be thrilled by her own power, and will want to show you how clever she is each time she discovers something new.

Add an Extra Wow

Introduce backyard games that reinforce cause-and-effect actions. Play tug of war with a branch, roll stones down a hill, or drop rocks into a pail to make a splash.

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As we approach the holiday season, what’s your kids’ favorite way to communicate with Grandma and Grandpa—whether or not they live nearby?

Parents Talk Back
As we approach the holiday season, what’s your kids’ favorite way to communicate with Grandma and Grandpa—whether or not they live nearby?
In-person visits.
74% (52 votes)
Skype or FaceTime.
16% (11 votes)
Calls via cell phones or landlines.
4% (3 votes)
Handwritten cards and letters.
6% (4 votes)
Total votes: 70