Nature-Centered Childcare

While strolling the block around home is a nice way to get some air, we are fortunate to live in an area with lots of access to public, baby-friendly places in nature. There are numerous and strong health benefits to spending time outdoors, starting in infancy.

Here are some examples found in an article from parent.co, including links to various studies:

1 | Jumpstarts language skills

From the wind to the sunshine to smells good and bad, babies simply have more sensory information to take in and process outside than when they are in a controlled, indoor environment. That, in turn, promotes early language development, according to a 2014 study published in the European Journal of Social Sciences Education and Research.

2 | Improves physical development

Studies have shown that children acquire most of their basic motor skills before the age of five — with much of the progress occurring within the first couple months of life. The same 2014 study found time outdoors helps facilitate the development of many of those skills even for babies, who benefit from observing others running around and playing.

3 | Lays a foundation for learning

According to The Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale, outdoor play prepares young ones to be future brainiacs — or at least more adept at learning science and reading skills. Technically speaking, that’s because varied environments promote the formation of brain synapses. Or, as researchers put it in a study of infant interaction with nature, “We believe that children are born natural scientists who are curious and ready to learn. Even in infancy, children compare and contrast objects as they explore their world.”

4 | Helps create healthy sleep patterns

Regular bouts of time in the natural sunlight aid the establishment of good sleep patterns for little ones. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of Sleep Research, babies younger than 13 weeks who slept well at night spent twice as much time in the sunlight than their wakeful peers. The lead researcher hypothesized that’s because the outdoorsy infants established their circadian rhythms sooner. But all that mom and dad need to know is that they will get more shut-eye, too!

5 | Wards off illnesses

Research dating back to the early 20th century shows young children who spend more time outdoors are actually less likely to come down with illnesses — possibly because early exposure to the non-sterile outdoors boosts babies’ immune systems. Thom McDade, PhD, associate professor and director of the Laboratory for Human Biology Research at Northwestern University, told WebMD, “Microbial exposures early in life may be important…to keep inflammation in check in adulthood.”

6 | It’s good for moms and dads, too

For those dealing with postpartum blues, one of the official recommendationsfrom the March of Dimes is to get outside. Another study published in Extreme Physiology & Medicine recommended taking exercise outdoors, which has been found to “improve self-esteem and negative mood subscales, such as tension, anger and depression.”

Using it as bonding time with baby just makes it a win-win situation.

If health and safety concerns still give pause, rest assured that pediatricians agree most newborns can benefit from time outside. The key is to take a few precautions for young outdoor adventurers, including staying out of direct sunlight, dressing in appropriate layers, and avoiding places where people are known to be ill.

Day-In-The-Life

An exemplar day-in-the-life for your little one(s) and me (maybe your mellow dog, too?), hours flexible:

7:30-8:30 breakfast or bottle, clean up, temp/weather check outside, get dressed

8:30-9:30 decide on day’s adventure destination (Inspiration Point, Alameda Beach, Sibley, Redwood Regional, Lake Anza, etc.) pack a day bag & picnic/bottle accoutrements, update parent(s) on destination

9:30-10:00 snack or bottle before heading out

10:00-10:30 travel (possible nap in car)

10:30-12:00  developmentally-appropriate outdoor active play time (sitting/laying on a blanket under the redwoods, crawling in the sand, cruising on a balance bike, chasing butterflies, bird watching, digging in the dirt, collecting sticks, throwing rocks, etc.), text parent(s) a pic of their little love's adventures

12:00-12:30 picnic lunch

12:30-2:30 fresh air naptime either in stroller or carrier

2:30 - snack or bottle

2:45-3:30 outdoor active play time

3:30-4:00 travel, singing in the car

4:00-5:00 unpack day bag, wash bottles or picnic supplies, read books, indoor play

5:00- 5:30 - dinner prep (probably not cooking, but can sous chef with directions) or bathtime

**The goal is to be outside as much as it is healthy for us to do so. If the weather is too extreme, there is a health concern, or if the little one really needs a chill day at home, we will stay in and get cozy :-)

 

From Amy and Dave, parents to the little fella in the photos:

Christine is an amazing nanny, but also a friend and great person who we cannot recommend highly enough! It is not an easy thing to leave your young child in another’s care, and we were so lucky to have Christine fill that role for us. She is calm, loving and our son’s face still lights up when she comes to visit. She is also greatly experienced and taught us many tips about napping, feeding and in general raising the bar for expectations about how your child can spend the day. She is not content to sit around the house or stroll the block, instead taking full advantage of the amazing environment in the Bay Area! Her own love for the outdoors nurtured a similar appreciation in our son which we can see to this day. It gave us great relief during the day to see photos of our son experiencing the forest, the beach and so many other “secret” spots nearby. We are so grateful that the lessons we tried to impart from the earliest days—of compassion, humility and sense of place—were shared completely by Christine. Basically, she gets it. She saw how our son got more pleasure twirling a leaf beneath a tree than being pushed around in a stroller. She understands you have to immerse yourself in the beauty of this world in order to grasp even a glimpse of its greatness. After a day in Christine’s hands, you can expect to come home to a child who is happy and healthy but also did something with their day. Christine is not just passing the time and counting the hours. She is teaching your child how to live, love and quietly find their spot amongst the redwoods and the waves. Christine is still our close friend, and more importantly one of our son’s favorite people! We are forever grateful for her helping start our son on the right path in life. Thank you Christine!!!

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From Jess in San Francisco:

Christine had been a friend for several years when the stars aligned and she was able to nanny for our daughter Maya on summer Fridays when she was 2. We were absolutely thrilled that Maya would be able to spend more time with Christine. Christine is incredibly attentive, creative, patient, and it's amazing to see how much joy she brings to nannying. Every Friday, Christine would show up at our house with a bag full of art supplies or some kind of new creative project. And each day, they would get out of our house and explore a new far-flung park or museum. We lived in a third floor walk-up in SF, so just getting out of the house could be daunting. But Christine was enthusiastic and brave, and dedicated to exposing Maya to the world around her. It was so fun to come home at the end of the day and hear what kind of adventures the two girls had gotten into! While Maya always had a blast with her - so did we! Christine is a pleasure to be around, and she is a clear and direct communicator. I learned a lot from her, and would recommend her without hesitation!