We all know that babies need lots of practice standing on their own two legs and plenty of opportunities to move about freely. In fact, there will come a time not too long from now when your pint-size explorer realizes that he is able to toddle about on his own, that he can see the sights and learn new things as an active participant, not a passive observer.
But sometimes, a toddler has to ride when a toddler has to ride—like when it is simply safer or more convenient to offer her a lift. As long as you are mindful of your toddler’s stamina and need for physical activity, try these fun ideas to keep your little one engaged when you head out on your next adventure.
What: A back-to-nature explore-and-dig
Where: A nearby park, arboretum, down the block, community garden
Total time: 15 to 20 minutes—longer if baby is happy
More riding or more standing/walking: Equal timeriding and walking
Take along: A small blanket to sit on while you organize your specimens; a shovel baby can dig with and a pail to transport samples. Optional: a kid-proof magnifying glass for older babies and toddlers.
Stroll and look for: Big and small trees, leaves, shrubs, grass, flowers, rocks, twigs, soil, etc. Find a place to set up camp and take a stroller break. Search for samples and examine them together. What’s smooth? Bumpy? Cold? Squishy?
Extend the activity: At home, use nature words. Help baby sort and group your finds by size, shape, kind, and color. Find a place of honor to display your collection. Try this project with your older baby or toddler.
What: A brick-and-mortar errand tour
Where: Downtown, the mall, bakery, bank, in and out of stores, and anywhere the lines are long and baby needs to stay busy
Total time: As long as it takes to complete your errands
More riding or more standing/walking: More riding
Take along: Board books about trains, planes, and automobiles, shops and stores, people who live or work in your community
Stroll and look for: Friendly faces. Things that go! Vehicles! Include bicycles, cars, trucks, trains, and buses. Visit a food court. Check out a parking meter. Entertain your baby while you wait your turn at the bank or library; match images or colors to things you see around you.
Extend the activity: Use words like busy, crowded, empty, warm, chilly, windows, doors, sidewalk, stairs, and more to describe what you saw and how you felt as you ran your errands. Gather several empty boxes and follow these instructions to build kid-size structures in your family room or living room.
What: An early evening star search
Where: Your backyard, a window, or a clearing near you
Total time: 5 to 10 minutes
More riding or more standing/walking: More riding than standing or walking, but it depends on your location
Take along: Flashlights (one for you, one for baby); kid-size binoculars; glow-in-the-dark star and moon shapes; books, including Goodnight Moon; Roaring Rockets; and Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me. Read them by moonlight.
Stroll and look for: Stars, the moon, planets, shooting stars, and constellations (OK, maybe not the last two, but for everything else, go for it.) Watch clouds float by. Listen for frogs croaking, owls hooting, crickets chirping, and cicadas squawking. Point to, name, and imitate everything. Move the stroller. Look and listen from a different location.
Extend the activity: Wake up early the next day. Head outdoors. Ask your child, “Is it dark or light out? Where’s the moon . . . and the stars? What do you see now? Where did the moon and the stars go?”
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