5 Ways to Stay Active in the Early Years
The infant and toddler years can become a little monotonous for new moms as they settle into a routine of feeding, naps, and playtime. Leaving the house can seem like more trouble than it’s worth, especially if you’re back at work and coming home from a long day of dealing with the grownup world. Staying active with your little one, however, is extremely important for both their cognitive development and your own physical and emotional health.
Here are some ideas for ways to stay active in the early years, and explore everything that lies beyond the living room floor. They’re things that moms can do when they’re alone with their kids and want to enjoy some family time discovering the great outdoors.
A Sensory Treasure Hunt
Make a list of things you can easily find in your own backyard or neighborhood park. For instance, something round, something crunchy, or something soft. Walk around with your baby in a front carrier as you collect all of the items, and talk about what you’re finding. Lay your infant on a blanket and let them touch your treasures. Some time on their tummy will give your baby practice reaching, grabbing and sitting up by themselves. Talk about what they’re touching, seeing and hearing as you take this sensory adventure together. It’s the first stage in teaching your child about mindfulness.
Follow the Leader
Toddlers love to mimic whatever mom’s doing, and you can turn their willingness to copy you into a terrific outdoor activity. Start by laying a few common objects on the grass, creating a small obstacle course. You can use things like cardboard boxes, brooms, pillows and anything else your baby can climb over, under or through. Help them crawl through a large box, wriggle under a broom that’s been suspended across two chairs, or clamber over a pile of pillows. Place a cake pan at the end, so they can whack it with a spoon and celebrate reaching the finish line. After following you through the course the first time, they’ll want to do it again and again on their own.
Start introducing a ball to your time outdoors, as soon as your infant is beginning to crawl. Always use a ball that’s too big for your infant or toddler to put in their mouth. Place it slightly out of reach and encourage your baby to crawl or stretch to reach it. As your child develops new motor skills, start kicking, bouncing and catching the ball with them. There’s something endlessly fascinating to small children about round objects that move in unpredictable ways, and even the shortest attention span can be extended by simply playing with a ball.
While you may not want to head for the park in the middle of a rainstorm, there’s no better time to get out than immediately following a good soaking. Cover your toddler head-to-toe in waterproof clothing, and let them loose on the puddles. Stomping around in the mud will burn off plenty of energy, making bath and bed a breeze. You’ll be amazed at how satisfying it can be to get in there yourself and help build the perfect sludge-castle.
Infants and toddlers spend an inordinate amount of time strapped into a car seat. Chores become interactive fun when you build walking into your schedule. Park a few blocks away when you’re picking up your child from preschool and have them walk back to the car. It will become a special time to talk about their day and all the things you’re both seeing along the way. Let your toddler push the stroller for awhile on longer outings, and consider leaving it at home when you’re only going a few blocks. It’ll take longer to get there, but the journey itself will become the adventure.
Children between the ages of 1 and 5 should be active for 3 hours a day. Starting to incorporate daily outdoor activities from infancy is a sure way to develop your child’s love for nature while building their cognitive and physical skills. That precious family time will also form some of your most beloved memories of your child’s formative years.
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