Don’t hole up indoors when the weather is warm and sunny. Grab your hats and sunscreen, savor the fresh air, and enjoy these fun things to do.
1. Take a walk together (and mix things up for deeper learning).
Where to go: Anywhere in the neighborhood or a nearby park.
What to do: Change your pace and the length of your stride as you go; alternate stops and starts; and switch directions and destinations. Use words to describe each move.
What baby learns: Tons of vocabulary words and cool concepts like fast/slow, bumpy/smooth, flat/steep, and so on. Watch her eyes widen as you surprise her with changes in your speed and route. That’s how you’ll know she’s paying attention.
Best for ages: Newborn and up, but monitor your speed, pace, and distance carefully (you don’t want to startle your child). But even very young babies can benefit from a walk in a sling or front carrier.
2. Combine tummy time and learning time—but move them outdoors.
Where to go: A grassy patch in your yard, a park, or a nature reserve.
What to do: Take a thick towel or play mat outdoors and place it on the grass. Position your baby on it, tummy down, so he’s able to see and touch the grass. When boredom strikes, you can put him on his back, lie down next to him, and look at the sky together, facing away from direct sun.
What baby learns: Babies need tummy time to help develop the muscles in their upper body (it’s a precursor to crawling). Some babies dislike it, so providing a new way to do this helps. You can teach your child words like grass and ladybug and cloud and give him a new tactile experience by letting him touch the grass. (Just watch that he doesn’t eat it.)
Best for ages: You can start tummy time when your baby is only days old—just a few three- to five-minute sessions a day—but he needs a firm surface at first. Once he’s stronger and can hold his head up, you can try a softer surface, like a lawn. When he learns to sit, continue your outdoor playtime, but add toys for a change of pace.
3. Introduce the invisible—look for signs of wind.
Where to go: Pretty much anywhere you like on a breezy day
What to do: Gather some supplies—cotton balls, a ribbon on a stick, tissues, a pinwheel, or soap bubbles, for example. Show (and chatter about) what happens when a gust of wind comes along.
What baby learns: We can’t see the wind, but we can see what it does to the things around us. Experimenting with what will blow away or stay put boosts your baby’s powers of observation.
Best for ages: Two to three months and up. Young babies will enjoy watching bubbles float by and feeling a gentle breeze on their skin. As they get older, they can learn many new vocabulary words as you conduct more-sophisticated experiments together.
4. Visit a garden in bloom to see a kaleidoscope of colors.
Where to go: A botanical garden or a community vegetable plot; your own yard, front walk, or patio (if you have flowers).
What to do: Show your baby the lush colors and different textures, and let her enjoy the scents. Check out the flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Sniff fragrant herbs, blossoms, and even ripe tomatoes. Let her gently touch a smooth melon, a soft petal, a fuzzy leaf, and more.
What baby learns: Babies need sensory experiences to help their brains develop, and gardens provide lots to see, smell, and touch. Chat about the colors and the names and shapes of the garden vegetables and different kinds of plants.
Best for ages: Four to five months and up, when your baby can see, touch, and interact with the environment. One- to two-year-olds may enjoy digging in the dirt and helping you plant seedlings or flowers in pots at home.
5. Experiment with water. Discover what floats—and what doesn’t.
Where to go: Any nearby, accessible water source (like a pond or fountain). At home, fill a large plastic pail or kiddie pool. Never leave a child alone near water.
What to do: Grab several buoyant and sinkable items from around the house or yard, such as a rock, a leaf, a sponge, a ball, a plastic cup, and so on (natural items only if you’re in a public place and can’t fish them out when you’re done). Then let your child toss, dunk, or submerge them to see what happens.
What baby learns: New words like bob, bounce, thud, sink, smooth, and float. Together, guess what will happen if you change the conditions (like putting a rock in a cup) to alter the result.
Best for ages: Older babies and toddlers. Kids this age love grasping, tossing, and dropping objects, so this is an exercise in helping them do so purposefully and gently. Younger babies who can sit up may enjoy soaking in a kiddie pool and playing with bath toys, or even just splashing their hands in a shallow tray of water.