Getting Outside With a Baby or Toddler
Children under the age of 7 expend about 20 to 30 percent less energy in physical activity than the level recommended by the World Health Organization. Part of the reason for the drop in activity? Children today play outside only half as much as their parents did. Outdoor play is crucial to healthy early childhood development. It gives children of all ages the opportunity to engage in activities that are often discouraged inside a home or school setting like running, climbing, jumping from one surface to another and generally being loud and raucous.
Young children build gross motor skills as they climb over rocks and uneven surfaces. They learn to observe like little scientists as they watch ants build a sand hill or birds look for worms. Their imagination grows in giant leaps as they play with sticks and pinecones. Social skills are formed as they make new friends and learn to take turns with strangers on a slide. Times of noisy, messy activity offer their brain a necessary break from other, more sedentary types of play.
Local parks, playgrounds and beaches offer endless opportunities for young children to get outside and increase their activity level. It can be daunting, though, to head out with a baby or toddler in tow for an extended time outside and away from home. If you pack smart - and not like a sherpa ready to tackle Mount Everest with a baby - you’ll find you have what you need when issues like diaper changes and meal times arise, but are not buckling under the weight of an overstuffed diaper bag.
Here’s what you’ll (likely) need:.
Diapers - The number of diapers you will need for an outing depends on your baby or toddler and how long you will be out. However, I have always found 3 to be a good number for a morning or afternoon at the park with a baby or toddler. Here’s how it typically goes down. You will need to change your baby once if you are out for a few hours due to a wet diaper - there goes diaper #1. Your baby might pull a fast one on you, though, and poop a short while after you change that first diaper. Hence, you will need diaper #2. Having that 3rd diaper handy will cover you - or in this case him - if you find yourself heading to a friend’s house after your outing or if one of the first 2 somehow malfunctions.
Here's a tip!
Keep 2 spare diapers and a change of clothes in the glove compartment or console of your car for those days when you forget the diapers altogether. Trust me, one day you will.
Ask your family to forgo the endless plastic toys for your baby’s first birthday and gift you an IncrediBundles.com Diaper Subscription instead! You’ll get to choose the brand and size diapers you want delivered straight to your door each month.
Wipes - Wipes are endlessly useful. You’ll use them for diaper changes, wiping dirty hands and faces at the playground, wiping up spilled food and drinks in your car, the list goes on and on.
Clothes - Bring a full spare set. Stuff happens - diapers leak, kids fall in puddles, water and drinks spill, kids throw up unexpectedly. Again, the list goes on and on.
Food - I know that people lament all the snacks kids get these days but it’s helpful to have food on hand when you’re out and about. Little ones can get really fussy when they’re hungry. The key to food when you’re on the go is to have it all pre-cut and ready for little fingers to dig in - apple slices, cut strawberries and grapes, blueberries. Cheerios and other similar cereals are a great choice along with bagels, cut-up cheese and small crackers.
Drinks - If your baby is breastfed, you’re ready to get out there and have fun but be sure to pack some breast pads if you typically need them. If your baby is bottle-fed, I always recommend bringing two bottles along with whatever you will need to prepare it like formula powder and water. You never know what detours the day will bring so it’s good to be prepared. If your baby is off of the bottle, be sure to bring water for her. And bring water for you too! You will be amazed through the years how often you will remember to bring everything your child needs but completely forget to bring anything for you. Get ahead of that now by investing in a reusable water bottle for yourself that you fill and pack everytime you go out.
Sunscreen - The day flies by when you’re having fun in the sun. Have some sunscreen packed for reapplying while you’re out. Stick sunscreens, usually used for little faces, also work great in a pinch on tiny arms and chests.
Here's a tip!
Make applying sunscreen more fun by dotting it on tiny arms and legs in a smiley face or other pattern before rubbing it in. Your child will look forward to seeing what you “draw” and forget to protest the application.
Diaper Bags that look like a bag we’d wear even if we didn’t have children. The Versa by Skip Hop has lots of hidden spots to stash everything you need and comes with a great wipeable changing pad that stows inside.
Diaper Changing Pad - A compact diaper changing pad that folds up and can be wiped down is perfect for ensuring you have a clean spot for a quick change.
Disposable Bags - Have a dog? Those handy rolls of doggie poop bags are perfect for locking away dirty diapers until you can get to a garbage can for disposal.
Muslin Swaddling Blanket - This is the ultimate multi-tasker. It works as a burp cloth and a nursing cover, can serve as a clean spot to lay your baby down or to drape over your stroller if you want your baby to rest while you stroll. It’s also a blanket - of course - for getting snuggly on the ride home.
Pacifier or teether - If your little one is still in this stage, it’s good to bring one along. As the weather gets warmer, you might find yourself staying a wee bit longer than you expected, and then face an overtired little one on the way home. Nothing calms a fussy baby better than something they can chew or suck.
Most importantly, get outside and have fun. Some of your favorite parenting memories will be created as you watch your child engage in the activities kids have enjoyed for generations - picking dandelions to form a bouquet, searching for the perfect stick and rolling down a hill, giggling all the way. It’s worth all the hassle of getting out the door with them in the first place!