Ideas for outdoor play for babies
They may not be able to hold a toy, or take part in elaborate games, but giving your baby lots to look at and new textures to touch is ideal stimulation. Embracing the great outdoors is good for your mental health too, so we asked childcare expert Julia Perry for ideas.
How do you play with a tiny baby?
“I know parents can sometime feel they have to keep their newborns entertained whenever they are awake, but just being close is enough in the early days. And taking them outside will give them so much to look at, it’s entertainment in itself.”
When can I take my newborn out?
“It’s fine to take them out for a short walk as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, as long as they are dressed appropriately and not too layered up.”
Can you overstimulate a baby?
“Just be in the moment, quiet, calm with lots of smiles. Watch their faces and their bodies react. Learn what makes their eyes widen, where their focus is, what makes them excited and what startles them.”
How long should an activity last?
“A baby’s attention span is very limited. Each activity may only hold their attention for five minutes, but you can make slight changes, like singing a song or introducing a new sensation, and keep them engaged for longer. Then, after a short pause, try introducing the activity again. After 20 minutes playtime, your baby may be ready to nap.”
Julia’s favourite outdoor activities for babies
Leaf walk: help develop their senses by putting different types of leaves into their hands and scrunching them up to help them to feel the different textures
Sounds of the forest: find a stick with leaves attached and shake it around so they can hear the swishing, rustling noise it makes through the air. This helps with their eye and head coordination – watch as they turn their heads to follow the sound
Feeding the ducks: have your baby face out from their carrier and kneel down so they are on the same level as the ducks as they swim towards you. Help your baby throw the bread and watch their legs kick in excitement
Tree show: on a windy day, find a big deciduous tree and set up a blanket underneath. Cradle your baby and let them observe the movement of the branches
Cloud watching: a picnic in a park is a great chance for tummy time, but if you lay your baby on their back, the changing shades of the sky will keep them alert too
Bubbles in the park: never too young to get the bubbles out! Hold your baby’s hand out to try and pop the balloon so they can feel the sensation as well as watch
Garden water play: fill a clean bucket up with water, float a bath-time duck on the surface and sing ‘Three Little Ducks’. Let you baby feel the cold water and use a plastic bowl to pour the water over hands