When we learned that we were going to be having a child, we knew immediately that it would be important to for us to expose him to nature and the outdoors as much as possible. But we also knew that might be a challenge. It could be difficult to deal with adverse weather, diaper changes in the woods, uneven trails while holding a baby, and keeping him warm and comfortable.
Ever since Jasper came home eight weeks ago, we have been trying to get him some regular sit spot time in the backyard. Typically, five or 10 minutes at a time. When he was three weeks old, we decided that it was time for Jasper’s first hike.
We decided to keep it fairly low-key. We chose a short hike where we could leave the diaper bag behind and to support Anna while she was still recovering from the birth. After a half-mile or so of walking through the forest, we broke out of the trees to an amazing hillside meadow. Here we could rest, enjoy the view and even breastfeed the baby. With views of the Three Sisters and Mount Jefferson, we knew this was the perfect place to begin our outdoor adventures with our infant.
As nature mentors, we spend a large majority of our time taking other people’s children out in nature to experience, explore and question the many mysteries. Before we became pregnant, we spent many hours daydreaming about how we would raise our kids to be children of the earth. We want to inspire our child and give him space to become interested in nature and natural skills, but also be cognizant of not overly influencing his decisions once he is able to make them on his own.
By being supportive parents and mentors, we can softly guide him to allow his own growth by carefully pushing him beyond his comfort zone as well as ours. The easiest way to accomplish this is to simply go outside with him often.
By establishing daily and weekly routines as a family we can incorporate outdoor time and as Jasper grows, so do the types of activities and ways of exploration. We love giving space for telling stories to each other and are excited to start asking Jasper questions of the day to encourage his own memories of experiences and to draw out lessons learned. That is, of course, once he can start talking!
For now, we can stick to simple physical experiences that get him acclimated and accustomed to being outdoors. Jasper’s daily walks with the dog around the neighborhood are perfect. Once spring is in full swing, he will be spending lots of time rolling in the grass, getting dirty and maybe even observing a few of the wild edible plants he will one day eat. And, of course, going on many more hikes.
Matt and Anna Bradley are co-founders of Whole Earth Nature School, a Eugene non-profit with information, including an e-book, about connecting children with the outdoors.
The views expressed in this guest blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.