Baby is on the MOVE! He is crawling everywhere, blissfully exploring and getting into everything. Babyproofing has been a major priority lately, along with keeping Baby entertained on all of his exploits at home. I feel like he gets bored crawling through the same few rooms over and over at home, so I’ve been searching for different places around town for him to roam.
With Baby Storytime and our Mommy & Baby class on hiatus for summer, we’ve needed to find some new haunts. Unfortunately, most of what I’ve found is either for babies not yet crawling (i.e. mommy & baby yoga) or for walkers or one-year-olds and up (i.e. most kids programs at museums, kids climbing gyms, etc).
Baby might not be toddling around yet, but he still needs some fun spaces to play. When we’ve hung out in the children’s area of the library, older kids tend to either love doting on him or ignore him. Based on that experience, I decided to try crashing some toddler hangouts. Our first stop: Toddle Time at our local community center.
Yes, this is the same community center with the not so wonderful babysitting program, but I figured that I shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
For a $2 entrance fee per child ($1 for members), we gained access to half of a basketball court filled with pop-up kid tents, balls, building blocks, scooters, cones, hoops, a few books, and a slide. Baby’s personal favorite was the lawnmower with a corn popper motor. He crawled on the floor pushing it from one end of the gym to the other, laughing as the balls popped. There was also a set of colorful bowls with holes at the bottom that all of the kids loved playing with, but I have no idea what they were. If you’re in the know, help me out on this one please.
When we signed in, the gym staffer told me that normally around 40 kids came to play. On our first day there were only 15-20, probably because it was a gorgeous day and all of the pools had just opened. Baby can’t do much playing outside yet besides go for walks or hit up the baby swings in a park. I was looking forward to taking Baby to the pool, but I definitely favored indoor activities this summer to keep my red haired and pale skinned little one out of the sun.
For the first 10-20 minutes in the gym, Baby sat around calmly taking in his new environment. He mouthed one of the colorful bowls, his only baby habit that made me a little nervous in toddler land. After a few failed attempts of encouraging him to not eat every toy he touched, I let it go. I fell back onto a phrase I learned in a teacher training years ago: it’s “developmentally appropriate.” All of the other parents had been through this stage, too. Baby was healthy, so it was more an issue of him picking up germs than sharing them. It was a risk I was willing to take.
Even after taking everything in, Baby seemed a little overwhelmed. I grabbed a ball, toy, and hoop and scooped him up to go sit in a quiet spot by a pop up tent. Once he had a little space to himself, Baby started to come alive. He was soon zipping around, chasing balls and laughing hysterically with his new favorite lawnmower.
Then, it happened. We made some friends. Baby crawled into another tent where an adorable three-year-old welcomed him to play. The little boy’s mom was nearby, and we started to talk. She told me they came to Toddle Time often, especially in the winter. She wanted to skip it that day, but her son really wanted to come play.
Soon we were swapping ideas for other kid friendly places around town and discovered that we live a few blocks away from each other. I learned that she recently became a stay at home mom, too, and that they often play at the park just down the street from our house. She also shared that they recently saw a snake eating a frog in that park, which further solidified my position that I am not ready for Baby to be crawling around outside.
When Toddle Time was over, she invited me to a new playgroup that was forming in our neighborhood. We exchanged numbers, and soon texted how fun it was to meet each other. It was pretty perfect that we happened to find each other among everyone there that day. New mom friend!
It happened just like so many stories I heard from my aunts and mother-in-law of how they made friends and found playgroups from random encounters at their grocery store, playground, or place of worship. Baby made a friend and discovered an awesome new place to play, and I made a wonderful new mom connection.
Don’t get me wrong, some outings have been major busts and many attempted conversations have fallen flat. But as we’ve ventured out to more new places, I have started to feel more and more comfortable striking up conversations with other parents. I must give credit where it’s due: Baby makes for a great wingman. It turns out that his mouthing habit is great conversation starter. Thanks, Baby!
What places have your found where your crawler can roam free? How have you met other parents in your neighborhood?
I remember that stage (we were there just a few months ago with our second baby) and it’s such a fun time as well as a bit tiring lol. With my first baby I used to love to take him out to do things like this and he really enjoyed it. I also loved meeting other moms and making buddies, and we’re all still friends and our 2nd babies are the same age too!
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How fun! I’m gearing up for tiring… he’s started taking his first steps, and I know I’ll be chasing him as he’s full on running soon. I’m trying to enjoy my last days in limbo with my little crawler!
The famous pick up of other moms and kids at play groups. Over the years that is how I have made some of my best friends!
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Haha! Making mom friends really is like dating!
So true! I’ve made so many friends at the playground.
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I used to be nervous about meeting other moms in play groups, etc. I think I have a quiet, reflective, and introverted personality – so when people first meet me they may interpret that as disinterest. However, I’ve been dying to make some mommy friends and play groups / my homeschool group has become a wonderful way to make other mommy friends!
Thank you for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).
Wishing you a lovely day.
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