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July 15, 2022

Montessori Babies and the Outdoors - The First Six Months

There is so much beauty and fun in nature for children. Nature is perfectly perfect for all sorts of sensory exploration and learning. In so many ways, the outdoors provide the most perfect prepared environment. But, it can be easy to think this only applies to older children - those children that can walk around and explore on their own. This doesn't have to be true. Babies - even newborns - can be brought outside to enjoy the beauty and wonder that is nature. 

This week I felt like we have been living outside with Penelope. With summer in full swing here it's easy to get out and stay out with a new baby. This is especially true when that baby is the fifth one, because the older kids pretty much live outside this time of year too. Plus this year our house has some major renovations happening so staying outside and away from the dust and noise is helpful. 

Ideas for Taking Young Babies Outside 

There are so many things that you can do to bring your baby into the outdoors from birth. Here are some of the things we have enjoyed with Penelope over her first (almost) six-months of life:

  • Take walks: the bassinet stroller has been so helpful with this and we try to get out for one daily.
  • Focus on one spot: we pick one plant, get really close to it and let her feel it with her hands, feet, arms and legs. We look at it. Listen to it. Basically just spend some time really soaking it in. For smaller items we might place in a vase or hold above her. (See video of this in action here)
  • Make it a mobile: We make everything we can a mobile for Penelope during this stage since so much of her exploration is visual. So we place her on her back directly under a tree/bush/flower so she can watch it move and study it. This is by far her favorite under our maple tree. 
  • Do regular things outside: We take laundry outside and fold it near her. We eat outside and bring here along. We chat outside with neighbors. Basically, we want to make going outside an extension of our world, not a big special activity. I want it to become so routine that she doesn't need special reasons to go outside she just knows its something we do.
  • Explore new textures: The outside world is filled with the best sensory experiences so I look to give her opportunities to experience texture outside. Lay her in the grass, lay on a soft surface, lay on a hard surface, feet in the sun, body in the shade, out in the morning, out at sunset, out when its sprinkling, out when it's chilly. 
  • Go Together: It's a family thing, we are all out together enjoying our world. We're baby wearing, we're with the other children, we're all in this together. 

This list is definitely not meant to be comprehensive, but use it as a jumping off point for starting to explore your world with your baby. What we can do in our neighborhood/state/country may not be relevant to your world, but look for ways to make simple, sensory rich encounters with the natural world available to your baby.

What if it's too wet, cold, hot or uncomfortable outside to bring out a little baby? 

I'll be the first to admit that there are times when I didn't and don't want to take Penelope outside. She was born in January in Minnesota, so while we tried to get out frequently there were plenty of days that were just too uncomfortable or even unsafe to bring out a newborn. Here are a few things to consider in that case:

  • Bring the Outdoors Inside: bring a vase of flowers inside, bring some fall leaves in to look at. You could make it a mobile, or just touch it against their feet or hands. 
  • Sit near a window or door: Set up a temporary space to watch rain/snow fall on a sliding door/storm door, or the window. Open a window to listen to the birds/bugs on a hot day. It doesn't need to be an all the time thing, but an opportunity 
  • Use houseplants to your advantage: use a large house plant as a mobile or point of interest in your baby's play area one day. Or stop and examine and allow for touching. Just remember that some houseplants can be toxic so be sure not to allow mouthing unless you're sure it's safe.  
  • Fans/Shades/Clothing: always carefully consider if you can change your environment a little to make it easier to bring a baby out. Using a fan can help keep bugs out of a smaller area, a sun shade can make an area safer or warm layers of clothes can allow for small amounts of outdoor time

This post is week 22 of my Montessori baby series focusing on Penelope.

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