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
Taking your out for a walk in the park is a fun and easy activity, and here are some tips to ensure that your baby is comfortable, well-protected and happily engaged.
Apply sun block and wear a hat!
Ensure your little one has sunblock on, even if it isn’t an especially sunny day, as a baby’s tender skin burns much more easily. Make sure the sun shade on his stroller is down, and that he wears a hat.
Bring enough water or fluids for the time you will be out, and stash the bottles in a cooler bag if you have one. Even if you don’t plan on having a picnic, pack a quick snack or too – food concessions are few and far between in a park, so it’s a good idea to have milk, fruit or cookies readily available.
Don't get bitten!
Even though the dengue epidemic is on the wane, it’s a good idea to pack (and use) an insect repellent. Look for baby-safe formulations that are kinder to Baby’s soft and tender skin or mosquito patch.
Use a stroller or a carrier
Parks can be large spaces and the distances between areas of interest can be further than you think. Take a stroller or a baby sling with you (or both) – a stroller can be a great place to stash your essentials when baby is not in it, while carrying your baby in a sling or carrier can free up your hands for other tasks.
Watch for wildlife
Be on a lookout for wild monkeys in certain parks – especially if your little one has a snack or drink in his hand. Exercise caution at all times – look before you let your baby touch or grab anything, and check for ants before sitting down.
Be dog safe!
Not all dogs are friendly, and some dogs don’t handle curious children very well. Don’t approach any dog that is not on a leash. If your child wants to pet a friendly-looking dog, ask the owner for permission first and check if the dog is friendly with children. Only then do you encourage your child to gently pet the animal – remind him that no poking or pinching is allowed.
Last, don’t forget – never leave your baby unattended. Make sure your child is always within arm’s reach when playing in or near water.