He’s not even four months old yet, but my little lad Sonny is already my hero. Watching him grow and begin to enjoy the world around him this summer has made me more proud than I could have ever imagined.Here are the outdoor highlights of his summer so far…
Sonny loves being outside, and the simplest way to get him there is by opening our back door and stepping into the garden. It’s easy to forget because we spend so much time out there, but our little outside space provides a huge world of adventure for our baby. He’s fascinated by the sensation of grass beneath his feet, the smell of flowers and the sound of screeching swifts. Last week he ripped a leaf clean off a tree! I know I shouldn’t have been so proud but I couldn’t believe it. It’s made me realise we don’t need to pack up the car and go on a big expedition for our baby’s senses to suddenly be ignited by the smells and sounds of summer.
AL FRESCO MEALS
It didn’t take us long after Sonny’s birth (around 24 hours to be precise) to realise that mealtimes would never quite be the same again. I think it was probably at least a month before Gemma and I actually sat down together at the same time and ate a meal that hadn’t either gone cold or been delivered by a takeaway driver. But the arrival of summer weather allowed us to start eating lunches and evening meals outdoors, either in our garden or a local cafe or pub, and since Sonny is so much happier outside than in the house he finally allowed us to start finishing our food in peace. If we’re at home he’s happy just lying back and staring at the sky, and if we’re in a public place the little show-off passes the time by grinning and gargling at complete strangers (I think he learned that from me).
Sonny enjoys his evening baths so much that we didn’t have to think twice about sticking him in his swimming costume and letting him splash about in some cool water in the garden when the temperature snuck above 25 degrees C. We didn’t even buy a paddling pool, we just carried his baby bath outside and put a small amount of lukewarm water in the bottom, making sure it was shallow enough that he couldn’t slip beneath the surface. He looked a bit shocked at first but soon relaxed enough to let us submerge his entire body, with just his cheeky little grin poking out of the water.
LOVING THE local park
I’ve been taking Sonny to the park since he was two days old, usually on dog walks with our jack russell Mario, and he’s always loved it. All I usually need to do is park his pram under a tree, then step back and watch his face glow with excitement as he stares up at the sunlight and shadows, reacting to every whisper of wind through the leaves. A few weeks ago he also graduated from his pram to the big circular swing that I suspect wasn’t designed for young babies. He loved it every second of it, of course – just don’t tell his mum.
I’ve always been a keen walker and have spent a large chunk of my life exploring the UK on foot. Great Rock on Staups Moor in West Yorkshire (about 40 feet high but seemed much bigger when I was a kid) was probably the first thing of note I ever climbed, so earlier this summer I drove Sonny there and carried him to the top in his sling (read about it here). He slept through the whole experience but it meant a lot to me to stand up there with him, looking out over the same views that ignited my love for the outdoors when I was a young boy. One day, hopefully, we’ll look back on the pictures from that day together and be able to say that was where it all started for him too. I’ll go back there with him when he can stand on his own two feet so he can scramble those last few steps to the summit, then stand on top feeling like the king of the world. Just like I used to
LAZY COUNTRYSIDE WALKS
I like walking with Sonny by our local river, or through a nearby woodland, every morning or evening so he can watch the light bouncing off the water or flickering through the trees (click here for tips on what to take on your walks). It isn’t just good for Sonny, either, because I love these places too and have been walking to them three times a day for the past nine years with Mario. The dog comes along too, of course, along with my trusty Swarovski CL Pocket binoculars in case I spot any wildlife. If the terrain is suitable I take Sonny in his pram so he can enjoy the views too, but if not I load him into his Mountain Buggy Juno baby carrier so he can have a snooze while I throw sticks for the dog.
HANGING OUT IN THE HAMMOCK
Earlier this summer I purchased a portable Grand Trunk Double Parachute Hammock (review here) and Sonny loves it even more than I do. He’s slept in it by himself while I’ve sat in a chair and rocked him, but mostly we lie in it together in the garden on warm evenings, watching clouds and aeroplanes drifting across the sky and competing with each other to see who spots them first (I always win). The fact this lightweight hammock packs down into a tiny stuffsack means you can carry it with you anywhere, and all you need is a couple of handily spaced trees to hang it. I’ll be using it more and more throughout the summer, so hopefully we’ll be swinging about in more adventurous locations.
HitTING the beach
There’s always been something magical about a trip to the beach for me. I’ve always lived in landlocked areas, so the seaside has always been a wonderful farwaway place that’s reserved for special occasions. Sonny was just three months old when he felt the sand of Norfolk’s stunning Wells beach between his toes for the first time (read about it here), and he reacted the same way he’s reacted to every outdoor adventure so far in his short life. He smiled a lot, waved his arms around a lot, cooed a lot, hugged us a lot, giggled a lot, stared a lot, then fell into a deep happy sleep. We treated ourselves to fish & chips and ice cream (obviously) then climbed back into the car and headed home.
I already can’t wait for next summer…