A lesson all new moms quickly learn: Sometimes a girl just has to get out of the house. And let’s be honest—no matter how much you enjoy shopping, you can hit the mall only so many times in a month. Whether you’re looking for a free day of play or have a little extra cash on hand, we’ve got a few entertaining ideas to help you and baby kill some time. Try these age-appropriate activities on for size.
Newborn and up
Walk this way
When baby’s too little to do much interacting (or still fighting to get on her own two feet), the timing is perfect for mom to do what she wants. And sometimes, all mama really wants is a change of scenery. Walking is not only relaxing and enjoyable for both you and baby (she’ll appreciate the different atmosphere and all the new things around her), it also helps work your body back into shape. Find a trail at a local park or simply cruise the sidewalks around your neighborhood, but don’t forget to dress baby for the weather. In the winter, snuggle her up in a stroller with plenty of blankets and a warm hat; 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 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 napping in the sling. She’ll be able to play with her “friends” soon enough. Most playgroups meet weekly, so you’re guaranteed to get an outing 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 each stage of mothering.
$ option: Signing up for a mommy-and-me class gives you the same adult conversation in a more structured environment. For infants, mom-and-baby yoga programs and music classes, such as those offered through Kindermusik, are good options.
9 months and up
Many babies love animals, so try passing time at a pet store. From admiring swimming fish to watching hamsters run on their wheels, spending an afternoon in a room full of animals is a lot of fun for a little one. (Just don’t let her talk you into taking anything home!)
$ option: If you want to take a walk on the wild side, there’s no better place than the zoo. Load up the stroller and spend the day looking at lions, tigers and bears. Your baby will love the sights, and you might be surprised by how exciting the animal kingdom is for you now that you’re viewing it through your child’s eyes.
Once baby can sit up, she’ll likely be a fan of swinging. There’s something about the back-and-forth motion that kiddos seem to love! Most parks have baby swings, so strap your little gal in and see what she thinks. You can also spread a blanket in the grass and let baby explore the great outdoors. When she’s comfortable on her feet, she’ll enjoy cruising the play equipment too.
$ 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 prevent your little one from sticking her hands in her mouth and keep some baby wipes close by until you can make it to the sink for a real hand-washing.
From puppets to a train table to building blocks, there’s often a wealth of playtime activities to try in the kiddy room of the local library—the most fun, of course, being plopping on a fluffy cushion with a stack of “new” books. Your baby might not be ready for chapter books just yet, but she’ll enjoy exploring the area 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 kid lit with your babe. While it doesn’t offer quite the free range you get at a library, many bookstores have a corner for children, so you can spend some time seeing what kinds of things your baby is interested in while picking up some classic bedtime stories for her home bookshelf.
Can’t leave the house but desperately need something to do? Try these at-home pastimes on for size.
Follow your little one around and snap some on-the-go photos. Many parents don’t think about documenting the everyday, but the seemingly insignificant moments are often the most memorable.
Dance like a fool.
Crank up the tunes and trot your baby around the house. You may feel silly at first, but you and your dance partner will be lost in the beat in no time.
Do something new.
If that mom- and-baby yoga video has been sitting by your DVD player for months, break it open and try it out. You may like it so much that it becomes a part of your daily routine.