It’s a beautiful day.  Why not take your baby out for a walk in the woods?  This will be good exercise for you and give your baby some fresh air.

Those are good enough reasons to go for a walk…but did you realise you will be offering your child a whole range of other learning opportunities?  Research has shown that children are a product of their experiences and the environment in which they live, and these experiences and environments are actually helping to build the very structure of their young brains. 

Not only will the walk be a great way for you to get out and about, it is also brilliant for building your baby's brain.

Visual learning

Your child will experience a whole range of new sights, colours, shapes and patterns.  In the very early days, your baby’s eyes will not be focussing clearly and it takes a few months for them to be able to see clearly and to experience the full range of colours on the spectrum.  However, being exposed to a range of visual stimuli will help them to focus and to begin to make sense of what they are seeing.  Just be careful that it is not too bright for their little eyes – they will find that very uncomfortable. As they get older, they will enjoy investigating the things that they find on the walk.

Auditory learning

Your baby will have been able to hear, albeit in a muffled way, from within the womb.  Their ears and hearing are fully developed in time for their birth.  They have a lot of sounds to process now they are born and taking them into different environments will provide a range of stimuli for them. 

Language learning

Talk to your child whilst you walk.  They will not know what you are talking about, but they will love the sound of your voice, and you will be demonstrating communication skills to them.  Talking to them as if they do understand will be the beginning of the important ‘serve and return’ which forms the basis for healthy language development.  Even if your baby is tiny and cannot respond, talk to them, wait for a response, and then give their response for them.  This process lays the foundation for the development of language and communication between you both.  Researchers have found that it is the ‘conversational style’ of communication that actually affects the development of language the most in young children.  It is a crucial part of the learning process for young children and it is never too early to start![i]

Understanding the world

Your baby may be too small to appreciate what they are seeing or to make sense of the environment around them and yet this is the beginning of their life experience – and you are showing them the amazing world into which they have been born. Watch their excitement as they discover the different things that they find in the world around them. 

Security and attachment

Walking and talking with your child, either with them close to you in a sling or in a pram or pushchair, will give your child a sense of security and attachment to you.  They will feel safe.  If a child feels safe, loved and secure, they will thrive!

Life skills

So, a simple walk in the woods, is not only good for you physically, it will also provide amazing early learning opportunities for your baby.  You will be starting a process of learning which will build, step by step, into a set of skills which will prepare your baby for the next stage of their lives, and for their future development.  It’s simple, but it is so important.  And understanding the importance of such simple activities will help you to value them and seek out more opportunities to help your baby to learn, to have fun and to thrive.  Learning starts here.