Just mentioning “walk” might have your little tot clapping his hands and gurgling in excitement, especially if you have been taking him out on strolls around your estate. But if you introduce him to the park, you are opening up a colourful new world for him — a world of birds and trees and colourful flowers of all shapes and sizes.
This is a time when your little one is completely fascinated with everything around him – he will probably try to touch or grab any object that interests him. Talk to him as you walk through the park – he will quickly learn to associate words with what he sees. Many parks have signboards with information about the trees and plants, and you can point them out to your baby, reading to him as you stroll around. This will help him understand more about the world around him. You can pick out key words and repeat these to him slowly to reinforce his learning of new sounds and letters.
Another fun activity is to take some stale bread or fish food with you to feed to the swans and fishes at the park (if it’s allowed). With an infant or young toddler, it’s often easier to carry him on your waist or in a baby sling while you handle the feeding. Talk to him as you feed – explain what you’re doing and encourage him to name the birds and fishes.
If your little one is just starting to crawl or walk, the soft, grassy expanses of the park can be a great place for him to practise his skills. Take a picnic mat or sarong to spread out on a shady spot, and let your baby explore! Once he gets a little older, take a ball along as well for some throwing and catching practice.
Good for both you and baby
Going for a walk in the park is beneficial for you and your baby in more ways than one. For starters, it is a great time to bond as a family. As you expose your baby to more experiences, he’s bound to build on his understanding of the world around him.
Not only will it be a fun time for your baby, he is also learning to interact with the new sounds and sights at the park. “This will build up their social skills as they grow,” says Dr Irene Chan, a paediatrician. Plus, the fresh air and exposure to sunlight will help boost Baby’s Vitamin D levels – just don’t forget to apply sunblock (see tips below).
Not only is a trip outdoors stimulating for your baby, it’s also good for the parents as well. Dr Chan adds: “A walk in the park is very good for the parents, too. It gives them a little exercise and the fresh air (except on hazy days) provides a psychological boost.”
Get ready to go
Here are tips to ensure your child is comfortable and protected when out on a walk.
Protection from the sun
Use child-safe sunblock on your child, even if it is not an especially sunny day. The skin of toddlers is prone to sunburn. Put a hat on for your child as well to block direct sun. Put the stroller screen down if you are transporting your child that way.
Take ample water to last the duration of your outing. If you have a cooler bag, this will be helpful to keep water cool. Even if you have no plans to picnic, pack a quick snack because food vendors are few and far between in a park. Milk, fruit or cookies will do.
Keep the bugs away
Always bring out insect repellent that has baby-safe formulations. You need to keep your child safe from mosquitos and other disease spreading insects.
Strollers or carrier
Parks may be large and areas to explore can be far apart. A stroller or a baby sling (or both) makes managing your child and the items you brought along for the visit easy.
Watch for wildlife
Wild animals may reside in parks so be alert for them especially when you or your child is holding food or drink. Check your surroundings for insects like ants before settling down for rest or recreation.
Be dog safe!
Not all dogs are safe for a young child to approach. Keep your child away especially from dogs which are not on a leash. If your child wants to pet a dog, ask its owner for permission and confirm the creature takes well to children. Tell your child to only pet the creature tenderly. No poking, pinching, punching or kicking permitted. No sudden screams too.
The park visit must be safe. Stay within reach of your child, especially when exploring or interacting with an animal.
With few bad encounters, you and child will have lots of fond moments to keep.