Making Space: Favourite Non-Busy Baby Activities
Before I became a mother, I was a nanny and childcare worker for 10+ years. If you had asked me then what my favourite baby activities were, I probably would have given you a 10-page list of amazing no-cost craft activities, the best local kids’ music camps, and a detailed ranking of all the local parks. Now that I am a mom, the things I enjoy doing most with my child are completely different than I expected. Instead of burning off energy or entertaining him for 2 hours, I am obsessed with watching him learn something new every day and discover ants for the first time.
Every Baby Is Different
That being said, my son has only just learned how to walk. Give me 6 months and burning off energy might be the absolute #1 priority! Your relationship with your little one(s) is going to change as you both learn, grow, and have new needs. Make space for that. Just like your child’s sleep schedule is likely to be different from one month to the next, the activities you enjoy (and need to do every day) are also going to change.
Final disclaimer before we dive into my favourite baby activities – every child is different. Last weekend I was at the park with a good friend. While her little was training to be the next Ninja Warrior, my son was sitting in the middle of a patch of daisies and telling me that they were flowers every 20 seconds. It was a totally different park day for the two of us.
Favourite New Toddler Activities
My little one is almost 18 months now and his world is unfolding on many levels. Here are a couple of my favourite Mama and baby activities for a newly minted toddler, both indoors and outdoors.
My son loves his book time with his Grandma too!
My son has gotten really into books in the last couple months – he has his favourites and recognizes them by the cover. He brings them to me on the couch, we snuggle together under a blanket and read a bunch (sometimes he wants the same one over and over). He cares about the characters, knows when the story is being told ‘incorrectly,’ and recognizes drawings of real objects in a book (like a flower). I never really thought about how complex the mental processes needed to engage in a board book were until I watched the dramatic shift in my son, and it continues to blow my mind.
My son has a personal mission to pick up every single rock he comes across on the beach, and I can’t wait until he discovers crabs. He has not quite grasped the concept of the ocean yet so sometimes he just walks directly into the ocean in his rain suit and boots, and I have to stop myself from laughing long enough to drag him out.
While I can’t trust my little one to measure things, stir effectively, or not eat raw batter, I still love baking with him. We recently got a learning tower for him, and it makes him so happy to be a part of the action. I am hoping that seeing how his food is made will encourage him to throw less of it on the floor, but even if we are unsuccessful there, I love sharing one of my favourite ways to de-stress with him.
This is when my son is at peak snuggle. He is a little dazed when he wakes up, so we have a quick snuggle, open the blinds, say hello to the chickens and have a cuddle until he realizes he is conscious and wants to play. I’m fully aware that all too soon he won’t be interested in snuggling with his Mama, so you better believe I soak up as much as I can.
Puddles are endlessly entertaining and getting wet and muddy is fun. I have no idea what tiny, interesting worlds my son sees in puddles, but I am here for it.
Bath time is always fun – bubbles, warm water, pouring, and exploring a new environment is always a good time. My son is totally absorbed in discovering how water works, and how his body works in a new space. He is usually so sleepy by the end of the bath that he snuggles in close, wrapped in his fluffy towel and puts his wet little arm around my neck. It is a wonderful way to end the day.
Favourite Baby Activities
Although it already seems like a lifetime ago, the newborn to 6-month stage had its own beautiful, quiet activities. My best advice for new Mamas, as cliched as it is, is to just pause. Soak it in. Learn how to live on less sleep. Don’t start a new diet or exercise routine. Don’t try and win the award for ‘Cleanest House’ or ‘Best Dressed Baby’ (the judges will never be impressed, and the prize money is non-existent). Get some fresh air, eat the food that makes you feel well, recover, and cuddle your little one as much as you can. You will never get this moment back, but you will relive these hazy memories for the rest of your life.
We had been told about the benefits of skin-to-skin when I was pregnant. It was actually the first real bonding moment between my husband and son – my son was a little cold about 3 hours after he was born so the nurse suggested some skin-to-skin. I was exhausted and didn’t feel safe holding my baby in case I fell asleep with him in my arms, so my husband took his shirt off and snuggled with him and warmed him up. Seeing the two of them together while I drifted off to sleep is one of my first powerful memories of my son. He was born 2 weeks before Christmas, so we spent the entire holiday period cuddling skin-to-skin on the couch and I miss it terribly.
We used to live in the city and didn’t have a vehicle, so we walked everywhere. Most of the time my son was in his bassinet on the stroller and he absolutely loved watching the trees pass over his head and birds flitting around. It was winter/spring so he usually had the rain cover over the bassinet and he looked like The Child from the Mandalorian, being shuttled around in a pod. Now that we live in a more rural environment, we walk with him in a backpack, which is great, but I miss him in his little bubble, floating through the world. Starting at around a month old, my son and I would leave my hubby at home and trek around all day, transiting through the city, walking for hours. He still loves the fresh air, and I think it has a lot to do with spending 8+ hours outside a day as a younger baby.
The Spoon Trick
When my son was first born, like most babies, he would need some encouragement to continue eating before he fell asleep. Our midwife recommended using a cold spoon on his cheek to ‘wake him up.’ He was always so shocked when we put the spoon on his cheek. It is one of my favourite newborn stories because it reminds me how small he once was – now he attacks the boob/bottle like a little beastie!
As you can see, my favourite baby activities as a Mama are vastly different from my days as a nanny, making cornstarch goo. I find great joy in the small moments in life, in watching how differently my son approaches something compared to just two weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong – I love the park and crafting. For me though, intentionally making space for exploration and messes and purposefully not overbooking our schedule means that I can take an extra 5 minutes to snuggle my son or spend an hour reading with him. Life is so busy – 10 years from now I don’t want to look back and regret not spending more time letting my son show me what he is interested in.
Okay Mama, It’s Your Turn!
What do you love doing with your baby or toddler? What activities do you look forward to? Are you a full-schedule Mama or a play-it-by ear Mama? Something in-between? Let us know – maybe we can help other Mamas find inspiration and new favourite activities to try out with their children, making space for growth and change along the way.
Serene is one of our awesome Mama Bear Club writers who is the proud mama of an 18-month-old. Check out Serene’s thoughts on the Mya Joy breast pump and how she found the PumpEase pumping bra to use during her breastfeeding journey.
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