There is a reason that forest and woods feature in fairy tales, myths, legends and even horror stories: they’re magical. The light, the sounds, the smells; they make the senses come to life!
I love to visit the woods at all times of year; in Spring, to see the beautiful woodland flowers; in Summer, to escape the heat; in Autumn to forage and watch wildlife; and in Winter, to gather greenery to decorate the house with at Christmas time.
We take our babies to the woods often; in Summer it can be lovely to escape the heat and not worry too much about hats and suncream; and in the shoulder seasons woods can offer shelter from the worst of the rain.
One of my girls’ first words was ‘tree’ and I credit that to the amazing sensory stimulation that forests and woodlands can provide.
As babies, my girls would love to look up from their pram carrycots at the leaves blowing in the breeze. I’d often park up the pram and they’d drift off to sleep watching the trees; nature’s own mobile. The light shining through the leaves is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful plays of light in the world and I could happily watch it all day. So too could my girls. In Spring, a carpet of wood anenomes, primroses, bluebells, daffodils, wild garlic and earlier, snowdrops, form a ground rainbow; an enchanting sight for my girls who just love ‘pretty flowers’!
Whether it’s the damp, woody, mossy smell in Winter; or the heady scent of woodland flowers in the Spring, there are no shortage of scents, sometimes subtle, sometimes almost overpowering, in the forest; and as babies are usually born with an extraordinary sense of smell, this is a great way to provide them with stimulation.
Branches creaking in the wind; leaves rustling in the breeze; a squirrel scuffling up a tree; birdsong; twigs crackling under foot as we walk along; a small brook trickling past; these sounds are all so relaxing for me, and have an amazing calming affect on my babies! Sometimes it’s the deafening silence of a pine forest that encourages silence, meditation and contemplation; if you’ve got a fussy baby why not try some time with the white noise of the woods playing to them?
Whether it’s a shiny conker (or its prickly shell!), a pine cone, crunchy leaves, smooth leaves, rough bark, a stick, or delicate flowers; there are literally hundreds of textures and temperatures waiting for your baby to feel.
This is the one we have to be pretty careful with, as there are many things in the woods that can be poisonous! But if you know your stuff, the woodlands can be the richest landscape for foraging delicious edible treats and lots of lovely first tastes for babies; blackberries; wild garlic; edible flowers; the odd worm or two! Plus when they get a bit older it’s great to get them to help you forage elderflowers & berries; and crabapples for cooking with back at home. Just remember – never pick whole plants and never over pick or leave an area bare. And check what you’re picking isn’t a protected plant.
Why not try taking your baby or toddler to the woods and see how they like it? It’s free! I’d love to hear how you get on! There are so many great woodlands around, here are a few websites to find great ones near you: