Newborn and up
Walk this way
When baby’s too little to do much interacting (or still fighting to get on his own two feet), it’s the perfect time for mom to do what she wants. And sometimes, all you really want is a change of scenery.
Walking is not only relaxing and enjoyable for both you and baby (he’ll enjoy the different atmosphere and all the new things around him), but it also helps you get your body back in shape. Find a walking trail at a local park or simply cruise the sidewalks, but don’t forget to dress baby for the weather. In the winter, snuggle him up in his stroller with plenty of blankets and a warm hat, and in the summer bring along some shade, sunscreen and a wide-brimmed sunhat.
$ option: Tuck baby into a hands-free carrier and enjoy the sights at a local museum. You’ll get a little intellectual stimulation and baby will enjoy the snuggle time with his mommy.
Joining a playgroup is a great way for you to get the adult interaction you need, even if your little one spends the whole time snoozing in her stroller. She’ll soon be big enough to play with her “friends”. Most playgroups meet weekly, so you’re guaranteed to get a house-break on a regular basis. Plus, it’s great for you to get to meet parents of children the same age as your baby, so you can discuss all the highs and lows that come with parenting.
$ option: Signing up for a Mommy & Me class gives you the same adult conversation in a more structured environment. For infants, Mommy & Me yoga programs and music classes, such as those offered through Kindermusik, are good options.
9 months and up
Once baby can sit up, he’ll likely be a fan of swinging—we’ve met very few kids who don’t love it. Almost all parks have baby swings, so strap your little guy in and see what he thinks. You can also spread a blanket in the grass and let baby explore the great outdoors. Once your baby is comfortable on his feet, he’ll enjoy cruising the play equipment. (Although lots of moms slide down the sliding board with their babies, I know someone who accidentally broke her daughter’s leg that way, so I definitely don’t recommend it!)
$ option: Many indoor play areas have special places for little ones, where they can crawl around on a soft floor and explore various age-appropriate objects. These types of places can be germ city, though, so try to keep your little one from sticking his hands in his mouth and keep some baby wipes close by until you can make it to the sink for a real hand-washing.
Most babies love animals, so sometimes there’s no better place to pass the time than a pet store. Whether it’s admiring swimming fish, watching guinea pigs run on their wheels or petting puppies, a room full of animals is a lot of fun for a little one. (Just don’t let them talk you into taking anything home!)
$ option: If you want to take a walk on the wild side, there’s no better place than a zoo. Load up the stroller and spend the day looking at lions, tigers and bears. Your baby is likely to love the view. (And you might be surprised at how exciting the animal kingdom is for you again, seeing it through your child’s eyes!)
Ready to read
The first time I took my kids to the kiddy room at our local library, I was amazed. From puppets to a train table to building blocks, there was an incredible assortment of things to do—the most fun, of course, being plopping on a fluffy cushion with a stack of fun books. Your baby might not be ready for the big stuff yet, but she’ll probably enjoy exploring and listening to you read.
$ option: If you want to take some of the goodies home for keeps, head to the bookstore and flip through books with your babe. While it doesn’t offer quite the free range you get at a library, many bookstores have a corner for kids, so you can spend some time seeing what kinds of things your baby is interested in while picking up some classic bedtime stories for keeps.