Having an infant who loves the great outdoors but who is also passionate about licking everything within reach can make for a very frustrating and stressful afternoon, especially if it’s spent in the garden. I found myself constantly rescuing my son from the brink of poisoning himself, grinding down his teeth on a pebble or plunging his face into a bed of Nettles, which was not the kind of response I wanted to have. It’s a little trickier to create a Prepared Environment outside but it is so worth it, because as Maria Montessori says;
“There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all of the life to be found around them in a real forest.” Dr Montessori
These went down a real treat in our house. Simply choose which sense you’re going to activate and fill small jars with either flowers (sight), herbs (smell), grains (hearing) or anything that will surprise your little one! I used empty spice jars, for those in the UK Sainsbury’s own brand are the perfect size for small hands and only £1 each! VOSS water bottles are the ultimate sensory bottle but alas, very expensive here!
The grains were a big hit as they made lovely gentle sounds, which he preferred over loud, synthetic commercial ones. Alfie loved inspecting the flowers too but lost interest after 5-10 minutes, honestly the sniffing jars didn’t do it for him but I know lots of babies go wild for them!
Simply trim the stem off a few flowers as tight as you can to the bud then run them through the laminator. I cut all of my sheets to the same size to make it easier for Alfie to sort through. He really enjoyed studying each little bud despite my initial scepticism. Blunt the edges of your laminate by glueing lollipop sticks to them.
There are plenty of edible flowers and even more edible leaves that are perfectly safe for a child to munch. This is a good first activity to build parental confidence if you (like me) are convinced that one sniff of soil will result in a bout of botulism. After doing this activity you’ll be reassured by how little your child will actually eat – how often do you see a kid eating a salad after all! Simply mix up a whole bunch of leaves and let baby enjoy discovering them!
Stick baby in a bucket with some water safe toys and watch them learn! When we do ours we aim to make them Treasure Baskets of sorts and group a couple of items together. A few things we have tried are bottle and cups for pouring/sieving, different textured sponges and foam/bubbles. For explosive foam try mixing your water and soap with your kitchen hand blender!
A book picnic
Pack up a few of your favourite story books, grab a cosy blanket and head out into the garden for a read! This has always been one of Alfie’s favourite activities, you can see a list of our favourite garden stories here. Bonus points if you bring treats!
Make a Bird Buffet
This takes a little time but is so worth it. Set up a bird feeder in a quiet but easily visible corner of your garden. Once a day or two has passed the local birds will know where to look for their goodies and you and your infant can spend a surprisingly long time watching them come and go, it sure beats the TV! Watching Alfie following the birds was amazing, he was so focused. It was proof of Dr Montessori’s words “When a child finds something that interests him he loses his instability and learns to concentrate.” Our birds love peanuts, oat flakes and meal worms which are hopefully tastier than they look. The tastier the treats the more birds will visit.
Have you any tips on enjoying the great outdoors with an infant?