With spring about to burst, it’s the perfect time to introduce your infant or toddler grandchild, son, daughter, niece, nephew or young friend to the great outdoors. A child is never too young to encounter nature — in fact, the younger the better! According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), recent studies document the importance of introducing children to the natural world, beginning in the early years. The development of their social, emotional, and physical health depends on this exposure.
If you can’t get your infant or toddler into nature, bring nature to them! It’s well known how children observe, listen, feel, taste, and take apart any and everything they encounter in an effort to become more acquainted with it. A very young child, presented with anything from a leaf to a pine cone to a snake skin (or the tail end of a snake) will engage his or her innate curiosity. Infants and toddlers do not associate nature, be it a fuzzy caterpillar, a slimy frog or a honey bee visiting a flower, with fear. Quite the opposite. Connecting young children with nature is a golden opportunity to foster curiosity and appreciation for this amazing natural world of ours. (Photo: Otis Brown investigating a red oak leaf.)
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