Sunshine, fresh air, birds, and sticks are all sufficient to keep a young child entertained on a spring morning walk. Why ruin it with a tablet?
Last week, on a sunny day with a definite feeling of spring in the air, I passed a nanny taking a baby for a walk. The baby girl was in a stroller with the roof pulled down almost all the way to the front tray, and there was a tablet propped up in front of her. I could hear cartoon sounds blasting from the dark cocoon in which the baby sat, staring straight ahead at her kiddie show while the nanny was clearly enjoying the beautiful sunshine.
I was on my way home from a long walk with my rosy-cheeked 10-month-old son. He was babbling, singing, and bouncing with glee, excited to watch the world from his vantage point in the backpack carrier.The contrast between the two children’s experiences of that beautiful spring day made me feel sad. How tragic that a small child – so naturally curious about the world and likely to love a walk in the sunshine – is not even being given the chance to do so, but rather snuggled up with a tablet while the world goes by.
It angers me when adults, who have become desensitized to the splendor of nature, or addicted to their own devices, or plain bored with life in general, assume that small children feel the same way and therefore require the same distractions that they themselves crave. That is not true! Babies and kids are fully capable of feeling wonder and curiosity about nature and the outdoors in general – emotions that far too many adults have forgotten.
The outdoors is viewed as a cure-all in my household. If the kids are frustrated, anxious, sad, grumpy, or fighting with each other, they go outside to play and inevitably come back in feeling much better. Outdoor play sessions bring out the best in them – their problem-solving and sharing abilities, their creativity and imaginations, their humor and boundless energy. When outdoors, they are their best selves, and they are rarely bored.
If only more parents would embrace the outdoors as a haven of wellbeing for their children, not a discomfort that must be endured. Children and babies do not need to have technology mediate their experiences with nature. A walk in the sunshine is absolutely sufficient to keep a baby content; her mind will be racing with amazement at the feel of a breeze on her skin and in her hair, the sound of gravel or icy snow crunching under stroller wheels, the flash of a bird in the sky above, the feel of a twig held in her fist.
Her kiddie show can wait for another day – ideally, a day that never comes – because she only has these few years to marvel in pure innocence at the beauty of the world around her, unaware of the many other distractions that exist. Just let her be.