Mother: “I have the impression that my six-month-old baby develops more when she is at home. Then she moves and babbles a lot. When we go somewhere it’s very different, she seems more waiting and more observant. How important is it to go outside with a young baby? Fresh air is obviously an advantage, but is it also cognitively important?”

Name is known to the editor. This section is anonymous, because difficulties in upbringing are sensitive. Would you like to present a dilemma in parenting? Send your question or reactions to [email protected]

Inside and outside

Carolina de Weerth: “Just because your baby is showing more expectancy outside the home, doesn’t mean she’s learning less. Inside she will soon be crawling, crawling, babbling, bringing objects to her mouth; outside she learns how the world works. Her brain is working, even though she is silent. She learns by watching and listening and maybe even by smelling. Outside she learns to see depth, estimate speed, determine distance: what is far and what is near, what is large and small. She also learns to distinguish categories, for example those between animals – is it a duck or a cat? Or between means of transport: is it a bicycle or a car?

“It is also the beginning of social interaction with strangers. Babies between 6 and 9 months old can smile very seductively at someone. If they provoke a smile from the other person, they notice their influence on the environment.

“Of course you don’t want an overkill of stimuli, a busy supermarket could sometimes be just too much for a baby. But the child also regulates itself, it can also turn away and shut itself off.

“There is still little research on the effect of nature on babies, such as taking it to a forest or park, but I expect it can have a physiologically calming effect as it does on adults.”

Dosing well

Sabine Hunnius: “In an environment that is familiar, and in which there is not much news to see, a baby gets to work itself. Is she going to babble, move. Outside she lies with wide eyes listening to all the impressions. Both are equally important for brain development. The trick is to dose well: not all day new stimuli, but also not just familiar things all day long.

“How many stimuli a child can tolerate can vary. You can tell a baby if she wants to take action. For example, if the parents are outside talking to a neighbor for too long, she may protest because she is bored. After a day at the nursery she is often tired of all the impressions.

“In this alternation of outside and inside, as parents it is also best to follow your own impression and needs, for example by taking your baby to a restaurant if she can tolerate it. A concert is of course too noisy, and a room where people smoke is of course also out of the question, but if you look closely at your baby, you usually feel that intuitively fine.”