You know your neighborhood is a great place to live with lots of sights, sounds, and things to do. But what truly appeals to babies and toddlers? And what does your own curious little tike want to see, hear, and learn more about?
We found three very clever, vastly underrated, close-to-home adventures to amuse, entertain, and educate your cutie. All you have to do is dress for the weather and head outdoors!
1. Do this: Treat your tot to the sights and sounds of neighborhood kids playing.
Why: Because their high-energy games and boisterous exchanges will hold his attention.
Visit: Playgrounds, parks, fields, schoolyards, and recreation centers in your area. Stroll past private homes, low-traffic streets, sidewalks, and driveways where kids typically play.
Look for: Fresh-air enthusiastsriding bikes, swimming, swinging, tumbling, chasing, climbing, playing hopscotch, jumping rope, and participating in organized sports such as softball and soccer.
What’s in it for baby: Inspiration to replicate scaled-down versions of the same activities in your playroom, family room, or backyard.
At home: Show your little athlete how to roll a ball across a floor, scoot and skedaddle from one end of an obstruction-free room to another like a pint-size Olympic runner, or snake his way around a simple, DIY obstacle course (a row of pillows works!).
To boost learning: Toss in lots of interesting new words from your fun-and-fitness journey. Baby might not grasp new terms right now, but with repetition he will. Sprinkle terms like big, little, fast, slow, boy, girl, run, jump, walk, hop, play, tumble, chase, and so forth into your conversation. Describe and label the unfamiliar and new.
2. Do this: Explore the neighborhood in an early morning plant-and-animal safari.
Why: Because there’s no better way to foster an appreciation for flora and fauna. Time spent in nature is priceless.
Visit: Town and county parks, ponds and lakes, nature trails, arboretums, local plant and veggie stands, farmers’ markets, garden stores, fields, and farms.
Look for: Birds, bees, bugs, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, deer, frogs, and other wildlife. Close to home, check out leafy trees, flowers and vegetation, and what’s happening in the soil beneath your feet.
What’s in it for baby: Fresh air, sunshine, better moods, physical activity, mental stimulation, and fun!
At home: Explore textures and colors. Introduce baby to wet soil, muddy puddles, sticky weeds, droopy leaves, lumpy rocks, crooked sticks, creepy crawlers, green grass, red birds, wispy clouds, blue skies, and yellow flowers. Don’t fret if she doesn’t get it. She will in time.
To boost learning: In stormy weather, view nature from your kitchen, bedroom, family room, or car window. Together, observe rain, sleet, snow, haze, and lightning and thunder (if your child is fearless). Use words like buds, birds, bees, deer, bunnies, bugs, and insects, plus as many descriptive words as you can think of (see italicized words above).
3. Do this: Watch building, house, bridge, and road construction.
Because: Big wheels, large cranes, huge rigs, and things that go are fascinating!
Visit: Sites around town that are being cleared for construction or are going through changes.
Look for: Knock-downs, new construction, alternate routes, malls, playgrounds, and large and small buildings where crews are working, and structures where the signs, paint, and facades are different than they were the day before.
What’s in it for baby: Eye-popping activity that will guide his play and interests—possibly for decades!
At home: Encourage block and puzzle play. Let baby experiment with toys that go, including diggers, boats, planes, trucks, cars, and buses. Help him sort his collection of toys by size, shape, purpose, and color. Re-sort items into groups of three and practice counting.
To boost learning: Watch workers do their thing in excavators, backhoes, bulldozers, cranes, steam shovels, and tractors, and name their equipment. Use terms including big, small, high, low, working, resting, moving, and stopping. Go back often and see what’s changed.