- Pack a picnic. Head to your local park with a blanket and lunch. Let your baby feel the grass tickle his feet, and have him lie on your lap and watch the leaves rustle in the wind. Even if he's too young to roll a ball, he'll love watching other people play. Frisbee games, bikes, dogs, birds, and squirrels are all five-star entertainment.
- Consider a class. Because of unpredictable naps and moods, babies who are younger than 6 months don't always get a huge amount out of classes. Moms probably benefit more from them -- and that's okay as long as you choose an activity you actually enjoy! Some examples: Mommy and Me yoga (check your local yoga studio), a music class like Music Together or Kindermusik, a group exercise class such as Stroller Strides or Strollercize, or infant massage (hospitals often offer classes).
- Paint a pot. When her son was 5 months old, Lori Bloomberg, of Manhattan, arranged to meet some of her new-mommy friends and their babies at a pottery-painting studio. "Each of us put our baby's footprint on something, like a bowl or a spoon rest. I made a frame with my son Avery's footprint, put a photo in it, and saved it for his dad's Father's Day gift," Bloomberg says. If you don't have a pottery studio near you, buy a handprint or footprint kit at a crafts store with a couple of other mothers and head to one mom's backyard.
- Tune in, rock out. When was the last time you gave your dusty CDs a second look? Plant yourselves in front of your collection, and listen to favorites from your college years or your best-loved soundtracks. Stacey Rosenberg, of Weston, Connecticut, preferred to keep the TV turned off when her twin boys were babies, but she spent lots of time listening to music with them. "I exposed them to the artists my husband and I like most, such as Bob Marley and Dave Matthews," Rosenberg says. "Not only did these songs soothe them, but they soothed me as well!"
- Make a net flick. As soon as you manage to send one batch of baby photos to loved ones, you're hounded for new pictures. Thankfully, today's technology can make sharing milestones a creative project. Robyn Wolkofsky, of Charlotte, North Carolina, used a digital camera to record mini videos of her daughter, Brooke, each day. Then she sent the short movies via the Internet to her baby's grandparents. "When I sat Brooke on my lap in front of the camera, she turned into such a ham-cooing and blowing raspberries. It was so funny, and it helped her grandparents, who live eight states away, feel close to her." To easily e-mail audio clips of your little one, check out the audio recorder at firstwordz.com.
- Talk to the animals. Go to the pet store, and watch your baby laugh with glee when she sees the puppies and kittens jumping around. Identify the animals, and then help her wave hello to each of them. Exotic-bird stores can be entertaining, too, especially if the bird gives your baby a shout-out.
- Relive your wedding day. Get out your wedding video and have fun reminiscing about your big day, while pointing out all the guests your baby knows. He'll be amazed to see them on TV! "My son, Jack, liked watching our video so much that more than two years later, he still asks me to turn on 'The Wedding Show,'" says Laurie Rosen, of Westchester, New York.
- Say hola, bambino. Always wanted to polish up your Spanish or learn the basics of French? Do it! Borrow language tapes from the library, or buy them from a bookstore or at berlitz.com. Then practice them around your child. You can also find storybooks in Spanish to read aloud. Your baby may not actually pick up any words, but research has shown that a baby's exposure to another language can help improve her mastery of foreign languages down the road.
- Share a soak. Relaxing in a tub can be a reality! Listen to classical music or sing a lullaby as you soak together in warm water. If your baby is feeling more playful, add in some bath toys and plastic cups, and sing Ernie's "Rubber Duckie." Either way, it's a great bonding experience. For safety reasons, be sure not to fill the tub too high, and always have a firm hold on your child.
- Walk down the aisle of a fabric store. For some reason, new motherhood can bring out our inner craftswoman. Dreams of adorable, hand-sewn stuffed animals dance in our heads (even if we've never held a needle and thread). Spend some time in a fabric store, and you'll be inspired to channel your energy into a creative project. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the selection, ask staffers to suggest some ideas, including those of the no-sew variety. At the same time, make the shopping experience a visual and tactile adventure for your baby. Expose him to furry fabrics, yards of shimmery sequins, and rolls of satiny ribbons.
Start an Infant Playgroup
Getting together with other new moms -- and dads -- can give you a shoulder to cry on, a reality check about your parenting skills, and a group of people who are also totally obsessed with everything baby. Try these tips to get a group going.
- Put out the word that you're looking to start a playgroup. Ask friends who recently had babies whether they're interested in joining, look for moms of young babies at the park and library, hang up a flyer at your pediatrician's office, or check out the Web site craigslist.org and post a message on the community board in your area. Aim to have between four and 10 moms and babies; you want the group to be lively, but manageable.
- Decide as a group what day and time you want to meet each week. To be fair to the hostess, come up with an end time too. Get-togethers should probably last between one and a half and two hours.
- Choose whether you want the time to be structured (the host reads a story, then moms and babies do a craft together) or unstructured (the babies play with toys while the parents chat over coffee and muffins).
- If most of the group members have just met, gather in a public place until you see how everyone gets along. Parks, churches, town recreation centers, and libraries are all good options. Once the group becomes cohesive, alternate at members' homes. (Suggestion: Try rotating in alphabetical order according to a member roster.)
Copyright © 2006. Reprinted with permission from the June 2006 issue of Parents magazine.