Having a new baby can make connecting with nature seem impossible, especially during the winter months in Alberta, but check out these 10 ways our Outreach Coordinator did so in her year of maternity leave!
1. Go Snowshoeing
At 6 weeks post surgery, I was outside in 0 degree weather, snowshoeing with my baby. He was nice and cozy in his giant snowsuit and loved gazing up at the trees. I only recommend snowshoeing with a baby strapped onto you if you are an avid snowshoer and are confident you won’t fall forward, otherwise wait until the little tyke is a little older and pull him behind you in a sleigh. Sunglasses for a baby work well, because they can’t pull them off, but really help protect those sensitive eyes from the albedo.
2. Visit the Muttart Conservatory
My little guy was flabbergasted when we walked into the conservatory. Being born in November and only a couple months old, he had never seen such lush greenery all around! It was a great experience for all of us.
3. Take the dog for a walk
Yes, taking the dog for a walk does count as connecting with nature, and is one of the #1 things that gets Edmontonians outdoors! And as an added bonus, this activity almost always put my child to sleep, so I eagerly took them for a walk when the little guy was fighting a nap. Either strap your child in a carrier or bundle him/her up in your stroller and go for a stroll. But no matter how many people suggest you attach your large dog to the front of your stroller to pull it along, don’t do it!
4. Visit your local greenhouse
It’s amazing how awe-inspiring greenery is for a little mind. Carry your child around, or put them in a front facing carrier and point out all the different coloured flowers, and describe the shapes of the leaves on each plant you see. It’s the perfect activity for winter, or other seasons when the weather is not conducive to outdoor activities.
5. Play in the grass, leaves or snow
In the summer, I laid out a blanket in the lawn for my little boy to crawl on. He eventually made his way onto the grass with our regular outdoor playtime and loved feeling the grass and pulling at the dandelions. You can also do this in the snow with a lot of bundling up on a nice day, and perhaps some sunglasses to protect their eyes from the albedo. In the fall, we raked up some leaves in the park behind our house and let him explore.
6. Take a hike on EALT’s conservation lands
EALT has many beautiful conservation lands with trail maps and directions on each lands’ page. Click here to view all conservation lands. Using a carrier backpack works great for carrying a young child and is a great way to work off the maternity weight! Start with very short hikes to get your child (and your body) used to the carrier (we started with shorter daily dog walks) and work your way up to longer hikes. The best time of year to hike is the late spring and early summer (when the trails are dry but the mosquitoes haven’t hatched yet) and autumn (again, when there are less mosquitoes and trails tend to be dry). But you can hike all summer long if you add a mosquito net around the carrier and ensure you have ample protection from the sun and heat.
7. Visit the zoo
Visiting the zoo is a great activity once your child is about 6 months and older. They will take notice of some of the animals when you point them out, and will enjoy watching anything that moves. My little guy loved watching penguins and swimming seals - he loves anything to do with water!
8. Go to an event with a live bird of prey
In Edmonton, we have many local events where a live owl or falcon is in attendance. This allows you to get personal with a wild animal that you wouldn’t normally see up close. My little one squealed with glee when we saw this Northern Saw-whet Owl at EALT’s Volunteer Appreciation event. But don’t let them reach out to touch the owl, that is something you can plan to do once your little one is a little older.
9. Take a beach day at the lake
Sand and water is the perfect combination for a little one to connect with nature. These are components of the outdoors that will eventually be something that your child begs you to take them outside for. Splashing in the water and getting a little dirty in the sand are the perfect way to spend an afternoon, along with a little shade and/or sunscreen to protect them from the sun.
10. Hike up a mountain!
We worked our way up to a four hour hike in the mountains with our little one in the carrier. This was an amazing goal to work towards for the whole family. Like I said before, we started with short dog walks to get our bodies and our baby used to the carrier. He protested a little at first, but quickly grew to love the walks we took, getting to watch the dog and take in new scenery. Hiking up the Sulphur Skyline in Jasper was a great feat physically and did us all a world of good. I couldn’t believe how happy our little one was by the end of the four hours - he did have a nap near the top. And we finished the day off with a soak in the hot springs. We brought along the mosquito net and sunscreen to protect our little guy from the elements, which turned out to be very crucial in keeping everyone happy!
Whether it be a hike in the mountains, a walk through the river valley, or even spending time surrounding yourself with greenery, connecting with nature in the first year is good for your mental and physical well-being and is also important for your little one’s mental and physical health and development. Click here to read how nature benefits children.