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11 Fun Things to Do With Your Baby in Their First Year

There’s no denying it--parenting an infant can be a tedious job. In fact, it can be downright boring at times. As a parent to three children myself, I remember waking up some mornings and wondering what we would do to fill our long days. At first glance, it may appear that there isn’t all that much common ground between a baby and parent, but frankly that’s just not true.

There are actually a lot of fun activities for both you and your baby to enjoy together. It’s simply a matter of knowing where to look, and chances are you don’t have to look too far or break the bank. The more fun the two of you have together, the quicker the time will pass, and the greater the bond you will be forging.

It may require a bit of research and planning but it will be worth it in the end. And remember, the more stimulated and active your baby is throughout the day, the better they will sleep at night (knock on wood). If you are stuck for ideas, check out these 11 fun things to do with your baby during their first year.

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11 Hit the Local Pool Together

Swimming together is a great way to engage your baby. It not only promotes bonding and trust-building but it is also good exercise. And where aqua safety is concerned, it’s never too early to familiarize your baby with the basic rules of being around water. In fact, there is no minimum age requirement for when you can take your infant swimming. However, if your baby suffers from eczema or any other rash or skin condition, you may want to talk to your healthcare professional to ensure chlorine won’t irritate their skin.

Many pools offer parent and baby swim classes which are organized to gently introduce your little one to the world of water. If you prefer to test the waters (so to speak) before taking the plunge and signing up for classes, find a local pool and take your baby during a community swim. Some kiddie pools keep the water at a warm temperature to encourage parents with small babies to take a dip.

10 Take Part in Story Time

While reading together is vital to a baby’s development, sitting at home re-reading all your baby’s favorites over and over again can become tedious. If you’re up for an outing and your baby is ready for a change in scenery, see if you can locate a story time program in your vicinity.

Most local libraries and even some bookstore chains offer a variety of story time programs for parents, young children, and babies. Not only will you encourage literacy and instill your child with a lifelong love for books and reading, but it’s a great way to socialize--for the both of you.

One of the biggest perks is that there is really no minimum age for your baby to begin attending and reaping the benefits from story time programs. In fact, the earlier the better, even if your baby is only days old. The earlier they attend, the sooner they will grow accustomed to behavioral expectations.

Story time programs are often free, drop-in events, although you may want to check beforehand that registration is not required.

9 Go to the Movies

Pre-baby, you may have fancied yourself a cinephile. That doesn’t have to change now that you're a parent. Many movie theaters offer a selection of movie times specifically for parents and their infants. And I’m not talking about animated, G-rated films either. This program is designed especially with parents in mind.

If your baby fusses or cries during the film, you can relax, as this is expected. Theaters also lower the film’s audio to be more comfortable for baby’s delicate ears, and they keep the lighting dim so it’s not as tricky for you to navigate down the aisles if need be. Some cinemas even offer specific areas for changing and feeding, and you can do so without missing out on the film.

If your local theater doesn’t offer any specific parent and baby movie program, don’t worry. It’s still possible for you to keep abreast of the current cinematic masterpieces. Consider going to the drive-in as a family. Bring along some blankets and create a cozy nest in the car for you and baby. Once they drift off to sleep (and assuming you don’t), you can relax and enjoy the movie. If the weather is nice, bring along a playpen and some toys to keep baby safely contained while you watch the show.

Worst case scenario for all you die-hard moviegoers--there’s really nothing stopping you from bringing your infant to a regular movie showtime. Although, it’s best to be considerate of the rest of the audience by taking heed of some of the following suggestions:

  • Don't attend a blockbuster film on opening night.
  • Consider attending a weekday matinee where it may be less busy.
  • Get there early to get a good seat.
  • Bring along a chest carrier for the baby. If they begin to fuss, you can gently sway them to sleep while standing in an aisle.
  • Timing is everything, so make sure the movie fits into the baby's schedule. Don't attend a showing when you know they will be hungry or fussy.
  • If your baby doesn't settle or is disturbing other patrons, leave.

8 Pick Some Berries

Berry picking is an affordable, family-friendly activity that also supports local farmers in your area. Not only will you and your baby enjoy some outdoor time together, your little one will learn where food comes from, how it is grown, picked and also eaten. Whether you realize it or not, your baby will learn an appreciation for nature and all it offers. So, when the season is right, don your hats and sunscreen, and get out there to find some strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

Even apple picking can be fun for your little one. You can hold them up to grasp at apples hanging from low-lying branches. Or even wear your baby strapped to your chest in a carrier and together the two of you can scout out the juiciest apples for the picking.

7 Enjoy a Day at the Beach

Okay, it may not be comparable to your pre-baby life when you flew to Acapulco on a lark and sunbathed with a margarita in one hand and a book in the other. This time around, going to the beach will definitely involve more planning and organization. But the benefits for both you and your baby are numerous, so give it a chance.

This is a great opportunity for you and your baby to take advantage of the great outdoors and warm weather. Your baby will get a chance to experience the feeling of sand against their body and feel the gentle waves tickling at their feet.

Don’t forget the beach toys. Most babies can sit and dig in the sand for hours,  although they will probably want to taste it as well, so remain close at hand. Build a sand castle together or dig a hole near the shore and fill it with water. It won’t take much to amuse your baby at the beach.

6 Get up Close and Personal with Some Animals

If you want to expose your little one to some big “doggies” (my kids used the word “doggy” to refer to all animals), you always have the zoo of course. Your best bet is to visit during spring or autumn when it’s not too busy or too hot. (The animals tend to be more active in milder weather.) Zoos are typically sprawling which can mean a lot of walking, so consider bringing or renting a stroller or wagon to cart your little monkey around.

However, if you want your baby to have up close and personal face time with some kid-friendly animals, your best bet is to think outside the zoo. Farms are often less expansive and offer your little one some hands-on experience with rabbits, goats, and sheep. There may even be some pigs, chickens, and cows roaming around, too.

Many shopping centers host petting zoos or animal shows from time to time, so keep your eyes open and ear to the ground for any of these upcoming opportunities. When heading to an event where your baby’s chubby little fingers may possibly come into contact with animals, remember to come armed with hand sanitizer and baby wipes. E Coli often runs rampant at these sorts of venues.

Another option that is generally enjoyable for parents and babies is heading to a bird sanctuary or butterfly conservatory. Here, you are both free to roam around checking out the flora and fauna. If you are lucky, a butterfly will land on your shoulder. If you are luckier, a bird won’t poop on your head.

5 Groove Together With Music

Babies tend to react positively to music, so take the time to expose them to different kinds and see what they most enjoy. Not only will you be cultivating a love and an appreciation for music that will carry on into their adult lives, but research suggests that music exposure can help increase abilities in areas like math and languages.

Play the radio at home and in the car. Encourage your little one to dance and sing along. Download music specifically geared to your baby’s age. You may be surprised at how much of your own childhood flashes by your eyes as the two of you groove to the never-dated classics from Raffi, Sesame Street, and The Wiggles.

Introduce baby to your favorite singers and musical styles. The more variety you expose them to, the better. Encourage interactive play when it comes to music. Provide your baby with a pot and lid or a bowl and wooden spoon to pound to the beat of your favorite songs. If you get the opportunity, allow them to test out a piano keyboard or pick at some guitar strings. Let them discover the control they can have over the creation of music.

4 Head to a Local Carnival or Fair

Attending a local carnival or fair with your baby in tow can provide them with lots to stimulate their senses. There will be sights, sounds, and smells unfamiliar and interesting to them. More than likely, there will be a few specialty exhibits specifically geared toward little ones such as live animals, kiddie rides, a sand pit, and a playground.

Imagine your baby’s wonder at seeing the world from up high as the two of you get a soaring perspective from the top of the Ferris wheel. Check with attendants to find out which rides are best for you and your baby. Keep in mind that many rides allow parents accompanying small children to ride for free.

3 Pack a Picnic

The beautiful thing about having a picnic together is it can be a spur-of-the-moment outing. If the weather is nice, all that you really require in terms of gear is a blanket and some food. And if your baby is in a good mood, and you’d prefer not to waste it on food preparation, then just grab a blanket, strap yourselves into the car, and head to the nearest drive-thru for some simple take-out for you and baby.

Parks are always a good place to consider setting up. Chances are there will be space for baby to stretch their legs and do some exploring. The two of you can relax and take part in some people or cloud-watching. If you’re lucky, the fresh air will be conducive for a little catnap (for baby, not you!).

Even if your baby is in a particularly grumpy mood, you don’t have to concern yourself with your little one being loud and disturbing anyone when out on a picnic. Find a shady spot, enjoy your snack, and let your baby cry their little heart out. Better to deal with it in the great outdoors than cooped up in your living room!

2 Take a Hike

Inspire your baby to develop a love and appreciation of nature and take a hike together. It may take you some time and preparation to find the most baby-friendly trails in your area, but it will be worth it. Check online or with the travel and tourism department within your city to locate the appropriate areas to explore together. Talk to other parents with babies and ask them what hiking trails they can suggest. Whatever you decide, make a point of checking out the trail on your own before you bring your baby along.

You want to choose a trail that won’t be too difficult for you to navigate with your baby in tow, and that will also provide you with anything you may need during your hike such as a bathroom, shade or a quiet place to feed or change your baby. Head out early before the day becomes too hot or buggy, and don’t forget to pack snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat, and sunglasses.

Strap your baby to your chest or carry them in a backpack style carrier and then hit the trails. Let your baby reach for nearby twigs and leaves, point out wildlife you come across along the way but most of all enjoy each other and the beauty of nature as you take a hike together.

1 Get Messy with Some Finger Painting

If you’re like me, you probably take great pains to keep your kids clean and do what you can to discourage messiness in general. But according to parenting experts, messy play is imperative for your baby to develop vital sensory skills. Yes, it can be inconvenient for us in the terms of set up, clean up, and supervision, but it’s worth it.

Finger painting is a great way to foster creativity and imaginative play in your baby--and it’s a lot of fun, too! If it’s nice out, take it outdoors. Lay sheets of paper out on the grass or across the sidewalk and encourage your baby to paint with their chubby fingers, tiny toes or button nose. Tape paper sheets across your fence or onto the side of your car and support your baby as they happily decorate the canvas.

It will be impossible to ensure baby doesn’t get some paint in their mouths, so you want to make sure that the paint you use is non-toxic and safe for a baby to handle. There are also plenty of homemade edible finger paint recipes online so you won’t need to concern yourself if more paint ends up in baby’s mouth than on the canvas.

Consider skipping paper altogether and come up with some creative canvas ideas such as a plastic tray, storage container lid, baking sheet or even stick them in the tub and let them paint in there. It’ll make for quick and easy clean up!

The website Can Do Kiddo offers a great finger painting tip for babies who have yet to be introduced to food. Put some finger paint into a sealed Ziploc bag and give it to baby to squish and play with. Baby will get the benefit of experiencing the different textures with no mess and no worry of ingesting unfamiliar food. It's a definite win-win!

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