Have you ever shifted your baby or toddler’s mood simply by getting them outside? Have you ever had a yearning yourself to go for a hike, or to go to the beach?
Of course! We all have, and that is because “there is a universal feeling we get when we put ourselves outside, and into the elements. We feel more open and connected to our world, and our babies feel the same way,” says Kimberley Clayton Blaine, MA, MFT, a Child Development expert, and founder of The-Go-To-Mom.TV, an internet parenting show.
I have personally experienced this change of attitude in myself and in my baby girl, just to get out of the apartment and into the outdoors makes us both happier, more cheerful. The gifts of being in nature: breathing in fresh air and experiencing the vast array of unlimited possibilities that stretch from the grass on the earth, to the expansive vault of the sky.
And if that feeling alone isn’t a big enough incentive to seek the stimulating pleasures of the great outdoors, Kimberley Blaine, the “Go-To-Mom”, mentioned some extraordinary benefits of outdoor play during our interview together, and some pretty creative ways of exploring the outdoors for baby too!
Being Outdoors Often Makes Babies and Kids Feel Better
Her words have stuck with me since, and now that I am more aware of the multiple benefits of getting my toddler into nature, I find myself really wanting to make the time to do it daily. I have personally noticed that my baby girl has fewer tantrums, sleeps better, and is more content when indoors as well. And, according to Kimberly Blaine, there is also something much deeper going on…..
But first, who is Kimeberly Clayton Blaine, MA, MFT?
Kimberely Clayton Blaine, The Go-To-Mom
Kimberley Clayton Blaine (The Go-To Mom), is a licensed child therapist and national child development expert.
Kimberley is dedicated to teaching parents how to adopt a positive child-rearing stance and to use their “authentic self” in deciding what type of parent they would like to be.
This last decade, Kimberley’s main research efforts have been focused around the Impact of Trauma and Aggressive Child Rearing on Childhood Brain Development. Kimberley currently teaches “Early Childhood Brain Development” and “Positive Discipline Strategies” at UCLA Extension Education Department. (Go Kimberley, that is awesome!)
She currently is the Director of an Early Childhood Mental Health Campaign for a national grant funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, in Los Angeles County.
Nature Nurtures Baby and Child
So, here are the extraordinary benefits of outdoor play:
- Babies who consistently play in nature SHARE BETTER!
- Outdoor play will give baby a MORE PLEASANT PERSONALITY!
- Babies who play in the elements are much more WORLDLY.
- Exploring with the endless possibilities which is available in the outdoors leads to GREAT THINKERS!
- Kimberley also tells parents that have children with behavioral issues to “Go outside!
Sometimes children just need to run, jump, climb and play to accommodate their every growing body and mind. Do you find your child irritable, whiny, lethargic, socially withdrawn, overly hyper or having trouble focusing for long periods of time?
Try making a regular play times in the great outdoors. Being in wide opening spaces will allow your child to release energy and explore nature’s endless possibilities – and sometimes that’s just the cure.”
Defining Outdoor Play
So lets define outdoor play…..
Kimberley Blaine describes outdoor play NOT as being constantly strapped to a stroller, but, for babies, being put on the grass where they can TOUCH and FEEL it. From the minute they can sit up on their bottom, they should be exploring their world outside, they should be engaged with all of its sensory stimulating pleasures.
The truth that even the sky is never-ending gives baby a place where dimensions, height and depth can be experienced to its fullest. Outdoors, all of baby’s senses are being utilized: touch, smell, vision, and an array of textures are all in abundance.
It is in this place of unlimited possibilities that they can experiment with their world. They can pick something up that can be wet and gooey, or hard and scratchy. There are a lot more possibilities outside for a growing toddler than there are inside!
Our babies deserve NATURE. So, here are some creative ways to explore the outdoors:
- Get off of the cement! Get dirty, get the earth in your hands and on your bare feet! Kimberly personally has a creative alternative to the sand box at home for her 2 boys. A 12×12 MUD PIT with shovels and hoses available to play with too. (They had their dirt tested, they grow their veggies from this dirt too!) This sounds so fun to me, I want a mud pit in my yard too!
- Let your baby sit in the garden with you as you weed and pick veggies. As baby is older, let them help you in digging small holes, and in planting seeds. What a joy it is to see your toddler’s face during the daily check on the seedlings that grow from the earth. This is a wonderful way to teach your baby at a young age in the miracle of the cycle of life. Also, while planting in them a respect and an appreciation for life, food, and in the gift of nurturing.
- When the world is so vast, the sky so open, just a walk around the block can go on FOREVER for a toddler. Babies can walk 5 blocks, they can walk much further than many parents/caregivers think. Of course be on the lookout for all of the things baby will want to pick up and put in their mouths, but remember that this exploration in ENDLESS possibilities leads to great thinkers. (I love that! A great safe alternative to those “making-a-genius” videos, ha ha.)
When venturing out for long walks with your baby, Kimberly suggests having the stroller or baby carrier with you, so that you can take them home. “The last thing you want to do is stress baby out on the way home.” So in order to avoid over stimulation, on the way home give your baby a “security object” such as a blanket, a binky, a favorite stuffed animal, etc.
“What is the Nature Element?”
To Kimberly, “this is one of our senses”, and it is a question of up most importance when interviewing, or looking for, child care options for our babies. We focus on our sensory, physical, and cognitive senses. Our babies do puzzles, get read to, and maybe even cruise through obstacle courses in different day care, in-home care, and pre-schools. But, what do they do for nature? This should be part of their activities as well. Daily, if weather is permitting. And again, make sure their caring facility is getting off of the cement, and into NATURE.This can be as simple as collecting leaves, or playing with the hose or water spouts. And don’t be afraid to experience the elements, use proper attire, use your best judgment, and enjoy the beauty in participating with your baby’s exploratory play. Babies deserve nature.
Nature Stimulates Our Baby’s Brain in All Seasons
This Christmas we traveled to Michigan to be with my family. The cold and the snow was foreign to my baby girl. So was the layers and layers of clothing she had to wear to brave it. My very own Christmas Story bundled baby, so cute it would make you laugh.
She was pretty interested in the brand new world around her. She wanted to touch the snow, and giggled with daddy when they threw snowballs at me. She also loved sledding! That was until she did a tricky move with daddy pulling her on the sled, and gently got a white wash on her poor little face. After that she did not enjoy walking in the snow herself, but she enjoyed being carried in our Ergo Baby Carrier.
It was memorable for me to walk the lake behind my mom’s place with some of my family. My 6 1/2 year old niece stated she loved the sound of the crunching snow, and we all delighted in the glistening shimmer of the fresh snow fall. Yes, sensory stimulation, at it’s finest…..naturally.
So even once Kaili was over walking in the snow herself, it made me feel good to at least know she was absorbing all of the sounds and sights that we too were marveling in.
Thank you Kimberley Clayton Blaine, MA, MFT, for sharing your expertise with our SafBaby readers. We appreciate your time and deeply respect your mission of helping to raise up healthy, happy children, into self-motivated and compassionate adults.
The Go-To Mom.TV is a “How to” show for families with young children (newborn to 6). The “Go To Mom” addresses parenting issues, discipline strategies, development activities and much more. The show also presents cutting edge research about the development of the young child’s brain. Call into the Talk Show and get your parenting questions answered live!
Kimberley is well known for her warmth, ingenuity and willingness to reach out to families in need of state of the art child rearing resources. In her own words, “I am here for children, every time I try to branch out I end up back in the preschool classroom…that is were I’m destined to be.”
Mommy Confidence by Kimberely Blaine
Kimberely Blaine has also recently released her new book, Mommy Confidence: 8 Easy Steps to Reclaiming Balance, Motivation, and Your Inner Diva!
If you’re looking for an easy to read, down to earth, and fun book for any mom….here it is!
This book encourages moms to appreciate and be who they are, and to have fun!
Click here to go to The Go-To-Mom.tv.