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Getting out with baby

By Elise Gruber

After we brought our newborn daughter home, once thed initial excitement of learning how to keep her alive wore off, I started wondering, “What exactly are we supposed to DO with a baby?

Baby in the stroller
Getting out and about with your baby
What helped was to get out of the house, each and every day. New parents, take note. Yes, it’s inconvenient. But the sooner you get out and join the parent community, the happier you (and by extension your child) will be.

Plus, as you'll soon find out, it’s actually easier to get out with a baby in tow than a dawdling toddler.

Here are some favorite activities to do with babies and toddlers so you (and they) can get the support and social engagement you need. (Note: This article is excerpted from an article on ParentMap: find the full article, with more details at https://www.parentmap.com/article/getting-out-and-about-with-baby.)

1. Get outside every day.

Nothing can improve a baby’s mood (and yours) like getting outside. Find your favorite set of parks and rotate your visits. And she’s not too young for playgrounds. The minute our daughter could hold up her head we were swinging and sliding with her.

Don't forget to blow their minds with beauty. Make a trip to one of the Seattle area’s amazing gardens (Kubota and Bellevue Botanical Garden are favorites) to get some calming endorphins and make your baby happy.

2. Swim and wade

Babies tend to wake up ridiculously early, so why not hit the family swim time at your local pool? The Seattle area is abundant with family-friendly pools. Especially worth the effort are the Mountlake Terrace Pool and Lynnwood Pool, which both feature a separate shallow baby area and water that’s warmer than many other public pools. The new pool at Rainier Beach community center is also wonderful, and we hear raves about the Snohomish Aquatic Center. Don’t forget to bring lots of swim diapers!

3. Get a membership to a baby-friendly museum

The children’s museums have gated spaces for children under three (KidsQuest in Bellevue is particularly fun). Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo has a separate gated area for younger kids inside the Zoomazium (though it’s usually overrun with older preschoolers).

The Seattle Aquarium is fabulous in every way once the baby can sit up and focus, providing up-close and stimulating views of beautiful sea creatures.

4. Go to story times

Many libraries and bookstores feature a toddler story time, which is fun for older babies, too. Even if they don’t seem to pay attention, they are still getting something out of it. While you’re there, check out some new books. In the children's sections of libraries, you'll usually find baskets or low shelves full of board books for babies. Nothing does more for future literacy and instills a love of learning than reading to your child.

5. Go to a kid-friendly cafe

Check out the kid-friendly cafes in your area and find the one that works for you and your baby. Many of them have some kind of play area or at least some toys. Vios Café in Ravenna and Capitol Hill, Firehouse Coffee in Ballard, Mosaic in Wallingford and Village Bean in Bothell are just some of the options.

6. Hit the indoor play spaces

Because of our rainy climate, most of the Seattle area's community centers have indoor baby/toddler play times on particular days of the week. They are typically cheap ($2-$5) and many of them have a separate baby area. For more indoor-play space ideas, see ParentMap's giant rainy-day list for Seattle and the Eastside.

7. Eat out or see a movie

Having a baby does put a crimp in one’s style, but you can still do some of the things you did before you had to carry 20 lbs. of equipment everywhere.

Eating out is a key form of entertainment in my family, so we started hitting restaurants when my daughter was two weeks old. Ethnic eateries are particularly child friendly, but if you can get to pretty much any restaurant at 5 p.m., they are happy to seat you before the child-free patrons arrive. If your baby is in a screeching phase, head to a noisy pizza joint.

You can also go to a movie via the cry rooms (see a local list) or special daytime parent/kid sessions that are set up at many movie theaters in town.

8. Join a support group

Joining a support group gives you direct and actionable help during one of the hardest transitions of your life. If you live in a metropolitan area, you should have plenty to choose from. Seattle-area groups include PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support), First Weeks, Wellspring and numerous Meetups (search for “parent support”). (See also this exhaustive list of local support groups.)

Don't have the budget? Many of these programs offer scholarships or reduced rates for low-income parents.

9. Enroll in an infant/toddler co-op

Co-operative preschools often have parent-infant classes. Co-op has many benefits: Your baby/toddler spends a bit of time away from you during class, which helps build confidence and independence. Also, your child gets to do messy art outside your home and get used to the structure of a classroom. Many co-op preschools offer scholarships. If you are a working parent, you can attend evening co-op.

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