I have the smartest and most precious grandson ever!

No really. I do!

Arthur turned one in June. He’s a happy baby that loves to explore. He really likes to explore outdoors. And this grandmother (a.k.a. Diddy) is more than happy to encourage that exploration.

After he learned how to army crawl (great upper body strength!), he learned how to crawl like we think babies should crawl – then his parents took him outside. That’s when he learned how to crawl like a bear.

What is this stuff? It doesn’t feel like wood floors and carpet. Why is it green? It feels different. Hmmm…I kind of like it.

So his parents encouraged Arthur to crawl and walk around in the grass and feel the softness of the grass and stimulate those sensory neurons (fancy word for nerves).

Now that he’s crawling and walking on the grass, his inquisitive nature heads him over to the big blue pot on their pebbly sidewalk. He slows for a bit when the texture under his bare feet changes from the soft grass to the pebbles. Again, his sensory neurons are stimulated!

Ok, that was short lived. “Now what was I doing … oh yes, that big blue pot!”

So off he goes. Inside the pot is dirt and a few rocks. He instantly reaches for the dirt and grabs a handful. My husband (Grandpa) is with him and starts to tell him “no” but I encourage Grandpa to let Arthur explore and just watch to not let him put it in his mouth. Arthur grabs a handful of dirt, feels it for a bit and then drops it outside the planter. Immediately he reaches for another handful of dirt to repeat the process.

I’m excited to see this exploration and learning happening. Everything is new to Arthur. I’m experiencing grass and dirt again for the first time through his eyes.

Then Arthur notices the little rocks in the pot. He grabs one and knocks it against the side of the blue pot. Luckily, he’s not strong enough to break anything so we let him continue his exploration of touch and now sound. That smooth rock makes a loud sound when you hit it against the pot. “This is fun!” 

He actually spends about five minutes with the dirt and rocks which is long in baby-world time. Then it’s off to explore other things.

This time he wants his Dad to pick him up so he can see things from that vantage point. There’s a pretty oak tree with big green leaves just within reach. “Hmmm… leaves feel different from grass, dirt, pebbles and rocks. And they are attached to a branch. That’s kind of fun to pull on a leaf and watch the limb bounce up and down.”

Going outside has become part of our regular ritual when Arthur comes to Grand Camp (weekly visits to his grandparents). We encourage outdoor time. He likes to sit with his Grandpa on the glider. The cool breeze (even in 95+ temps) and birds singing are all new to Arthur. Time with Grandpa on the glider is sure to last a good 10 minutes. There may be a little wiggling, but mostly it’s looking around, listening to the outside sounds and enjoying the motion of the glider and the breeze.

Both sets of Arthur’s grandparents are encouraging outside play. For his birthday, he got a swing and a water table. The water table was great fun using the scoop and watching water come out of the holes. And the swing does just the trick to calm and relax him. Oh my! More sensory exploration!

All you baby boomers with grandchildren, get your grandkids outdoors. Remember when we were outdoors playing all day until it got dark or we were called into dinner? Learning and exploring outdoors provides wonderfully unique opportunities for young children to exercise all their senses while sparking imagination and creativity. Hands-on nature education promotes problem solving and critical thinking to support math, science, reading skills, and physical and social development. Not to mention the critical opportunity of introducing a child to the role they have in loving and protecting the world in which they live.

“We must make sure the next generation also has the opportunity to have meaningful encounters with nature, because they cannot grow to love nature if they do not experience it. If children lose their love of nature, who will be the environmental stewards of the future?” –  America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations

If you would like to learn more about how your family can be involved in nature exploration, contact us and we’ll help find a place for you.

Diane Lochtrog Johnson is the Director of Business Relationships at Camp Fire First Texas. She has been with Camp Fire since 2003. However, her affiliation with the organization began when she was a young girl and became a Blue Bird and later a Camp Fire Girl, with her mother as her leader. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas Christian University. Diane is President of the National Alumni Board at Texas Christian University and lifetime member of the TCU Alumni Association. She is a charter member of Arborlawn United Methodist Church and lifetime member in the Texas PTA.