Summer Baby Field Trips

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If it’s your baby’s first summer, you may be hesitant to get out and about in the heat. But here are a few of my suggestions for places that – yes! – you can take baby. Veronika is 9 months old for all of the ideas below, but you can adapt them for your child from birth on up.

Head to the Pool:

Ideally, there will be a kiddie area with shallow water where you and your baby can sit together. Worst case scenario, camp out on the shallowest step.

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Veronika loved hanging out here, kicking her feet and dipping her hands in the water. Bigger kids brought her a few pool toys, which made fantastic teething rings.

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Tips: Make sure to stay in the shade as soon as you’re out of the water and dried off, and come prepared with plastic baggies (for wet bathing suits), swim diapers, regular diapers, a change of clothes, and snacks or milk (depending on age).

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If you’re inclined to go deeper, take baby in your arms to swish around; babies love this feeling of weightlessness.

Butterfly Garden:

We stopped by a small butterfly garden that’s been in our local area for almost 30 years. The wonder in Veronika’s eyes was immediate as she watched the butterflies swirl and dance above her.

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One landed on her shoulder and it was pure magic. She looked over at me after watching this one, as if to make sure I saw it too.

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She also loved just touching the plants and bright flowers.

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There are so many colors and scents for a baby in this experience! Just make sure you help keep little fingers away from the delicate insects themselves.

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Tips: Go early (right at opening is ideal!). Many places like this will host camp groups in the summer, and I wanted her to marvel at the butterflies without lots of kids in the way. We were lucky to share the room with only two other families.

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Also, consider leaving the stroller behind. She was much more into it when she was out where she could swivel her head and take in the butterflies from all directions.

Admire New Construction:

Big trucks are fascinating to babies and for good reason! There’s noise, there’s movement, there’s lifting, there’s digging. Veronika and I stopped by a local street that’s been under construction all season. There goes whirly swirly cement truck!

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She had no idea what was coming around the corner, but grinned once she saw this bulldozer go by.

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Tips: If the noise is too loud for your little one, consider standing far back, or investing in Baby Banz.

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There will still be plenty of movement and excitement to observe from far back, without overwhelming the senses. Also, try to go on a day that’s not too hot, or when you can be in the shade, since construction sites tend to be sun-drenched dusty places.

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Botanical Garden:

Don’t think your baby will be bored in a place with no toys; as with the butterfly garden, the draw here is for all the senses.

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There are bold colors to take in visually; the feel of wind on hair or sunshine on skin or grass on toes; and of course the smell of pretty flowers.

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Many botanical gardens can be overwhelmingly large, so either find a small one or stick to a small area.

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If allowed, lay down a picnic blanket and spread out a few toys or books to read together and make a little afternoon of it.

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Tips: Just because you’re not at a pool or beach, don’t forget a big sunhat and sunscreen. Also make sure to bring along bug spray, especially if garden trails lead through wooded or shady areas.

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Animal Fun:

I don’t take my kids to zoos, but I love exposing Veronika to animals through local sanctuaries. Although we’ve visited such farms in the past, today she was very alert and focused on the animal’s behavior. She loved watching the chickens and roosters.

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Their crowing startled her a little, but she was fascinated watching them take dirt baths or roost up high.

She also loved the cows! For each animal we marveled at, I reminded her of their noises. “Moo moo!”

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The sheep were enjoying a morning munch on grass, which she seemed to love.

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There’s lots of great ways to expose your baby to new vocabulary on a trip like this, too. Barns and tractors come to life, instead of being abstracts in a board book!

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Tips: Go in the morning. Animals will be more active before the hottest part of the day, and your baby will notice movements more than sleeping animals.

Where have you taken your baby this summer? Please share in the comments!

Create a Water Garden for a Budding Gardener

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Here’s a beautiful activity for baby’s first “garden”. If you have a true garden, then by all means just head outside with your little one plus a tot-sized watering can, and he or she can help with the watering. Since we have no garden of our own, we had to improvise a little.

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First, I filled a child’s watering can and had Veronika help me pour the water over a few flowers and fronds on our patio. She was immediately intrigued both with the water coming from the spout and with the can itself!

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Next, I set up a little water garden. It included a few floating blossoms, kale leaves for “reeds” and a plastic duck and frog.

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She had so much fun reaching in and splashing about.

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In retrospect, I wish I’d used an edible flower like roses so I didn’t have to worry about her putting anything in her mouth.

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As a result, I moved the flowers out rather quickly and then didn’t have to worry if the toys or kale made their way up to curious lips.

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As you can see in the photos, this activity was so fun that big brother wanted to join in, making it an impromptu water table to cool off.

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I loved watching them play together! And much like a picnic breakfast, it’s the perfect early morning outdoor activity before the heat of the day sets in. Here’s to many gardening moments to come with my girl!

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Garden Games

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A trip to a local botanical garden had us playing garden games in two ways today. First up: a scavenger hunt! The printable Garden Bingo card from Raddish Kids gave purpose to our walk along the paths and past the beautiful blooms.

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Some items we spotted right away (grass, flowers, leaves, hoses).

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Others we really had to look for, like sprinklers:

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And wheelbarrows:

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Travis got down low to spot clover:

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And dug in the dirt for worms!

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I was amazed when he spotted a rollie poly bug crossing the gravel path. I thought for sure that one would go unmarked on our sheet.

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Travis loved the hunt; near the end we had four boxes crossed off in multiple directions, but no actual Bingo. Then a watering can sealed the deal!

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Meanwhile, midway through our hunt we paused to play Bug Detective. I challenged Travis to pick an insect and observe it in close detail. He found a big fat wood ant and stopped to watch.

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We kept it in our bug jar for a short time, but then released it.

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Travis watched the ant scurry about. We hoped it would pick something up, but never did.

Later, Travis drew the ant, working from memory to make the three parts of the body and the legs. He added an arrow for the direction the ant had gone, as well as the grass it had been crawling through.

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Both of these activities really had Travis thinking about nature in new ways, and challenged him to see the garden on the macro and micro levels. What fun!

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Homemade Butterfly Feeder

Butterfly Feeder (5)Travis and I have made bird feeders before… but never a butterfly feeder! So we were delighted to make this simple little craft, connected to his Garden Party Raddish Kids crate.

Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar; reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Cool completely.

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Use a pen or pencil to punch a hole near the top of a sponge. Travis loved this part! Thread twine or string through the hole.

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Carefully submerge the sponge in the sugar syrup. We found that it helped to use a stick to push the sponge down, so our fingers didn’t get sticky.

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Hold the sponge over the bowl to let any excess drip off, then hang some place that will attract butterflies outside.

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The craft was beautiful already, even without any visitors. I will post an update picture if a butterfly comes calling!

Get Out and About

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Veronika is four months old, and that’s a great age for field trips! Although I posted a few suggestions for getting your infant out and about early on (to museums or plays, for example), let’s be honest; Veronika slept most of the time.

But now she’s wide-eyed and alert for roughly 2 hour stretches, and it’s a great time to revisit some of these old suggestions, plus add in a few new ones.

To wit, when I took her to an art museum this time, she didn’t doze off in front of the canvases. Instead, there was lots of wide-eyed gazing at the bright colors on the wall, even if she didn’t know what she was looking at.

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Or she occasionally preferred devouring a toy over admiring the art.

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Our particular local museum is perfect for families with children, with just two rooms, and activities for the big kids. Veronika loved watching Travis craft…

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… and paint on a digital computer.

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Whoops, she was sleeping by the time we were at an art gallery down the street! But that’s the other great thing about field trips with your 4-month-old. They still nap easily on the go, and hopefully she soaked up some of the ambiance.

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Another place to take baby at this age? A sporting event! This can mean a local high school game, or a minor league stadium, both of which are family-friendly. In our case, we hit up a local tennis expo.

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Another great option is a local market. We love our town’s farmers’ market, so I was thrilled to learn an indoor version is held in winter.

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Both kids loved this; Veronika got to take in the sights and smells – vibrant red apples, the yeasty aroma of fresh-baked bread – and Travis got a morning of culinary exploration and taste testing. Many markets – including ours – also feature musical entertainment, so check your local listings.

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Finally, we headed to a garden center. As with the farmers’ market, there were so many sights and smells here for a baby to soak in.

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We got lucky that the annual flower show had just opened, and was divided into areas featuring each of the five senses. Veronika got to smell flowers up close…

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…pause to hear waterfalls splashing in the “sound” area…

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…and marvel at butterflies and colors in the “sight” portion.

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Where else have you taken your little one? Please share in the comments!

Up-Down Walking Tour

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As your baby grows more aware of how his or her body moves through space, you can play games that strengthen the notion and help develop balance, too! One fun idea is to give a tour of a visually striking place, playing around with movement and altitudes. For a change of scenery from our house, we headed to a local garden!

Since it’s winter, we made this a trip to a greenhouse instead of an outdoor botanical garden. As we walked around the lush plants and vibrant flowers, I moved Veronika’s body up and down.

Look up at the red fronds.

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Look down for these amazing coffee-colored flowers (mmm, did someone say coffee?).

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Look up to the mango fruit in the tree!

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Look down to this blazing pink flower.

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I even said the words “up” and “down” as we walked, to help build her vocabulary.

To be honest, there was so much to take in that Veronika seemed a little overwhelmed, between the movement and the sights. But the whole family welcomed a trip to see such lush colors in the middle of winter!

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If you don’t have a garden near you, try this up and down “tour” in a house, whether your own home or a historic home in the area. After the greenhouse, we headed inside, to see tall sconces and bookshelves, and low period-piece armchairs and trinkets.

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Stamped Garden Gloves

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As camp season comes to a close, we’re thinking about gifts to thank Travis’s counselors for a wonderful few weeks in the sun. In keeping with all that outdoor time they’ve spent with your children for the summer, consider these kid-painted garden gloves as a parting gift!

To make the project extra fun, we bought puffy fabric paints in pretty pastels, and instead of using paintbrushes, we turned pencil erasers into our tool of choice.

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Squeeze out the paints onto a paper plate.

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Dip a pencil eraser in a color, and stamp onto the gloves.

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Travis made a set decorated with multi-colored dots.

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Meanwhile I showed him a slightly more deliberate method of painting: purple dots in bunches of three to be purple grapes. A little brush of green paint for the leaves completes the look. Older kids will love making this version.

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To present as a gift, simply wrap up the gloves with a seed packet of herbs and some twine. They would make a wonderful hostess gift for any summer friends you visit, as well.

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Nature’s Palette

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This beautiful activity from High Five magazine combines a craft and a way to get outdoors. It’s quite similar to a rainbow hunt we did late last summer, but sometimes it’s fun to repeat an activity as your children age; they’ll reap different rewards from it each time!

This time we started by making a proper artist’s “palette,” which immediately had Travis excited. Cut a palette shape from a file folder (I did this step for Travis, since he wasn’t sure of the shape).

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Next, cut paint chip samples (available for free at paint stores or home good stores) into pieces, and arrange on your palette. Travis was thrilled to use grown-up scissors, with a guiding hand.

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Little drops of color!

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Travis immediately seized upon the fun to be had with the remaining paint chips and extra file folders, and was soon making collages and creations.

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He mostly cut squares and rectangles, but I helped him cut a few nature shapes like leaves and flowers, and we arranged them in pretty nature pictures.

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Then came the real nature walk! Instead of going into the forest, I detoured us to a local botanical garden, knowing we’d find the full rainbow of colors there. Travis loved seeking out different shades on his palette.

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We thought we might have to use the sky as our blue, until stumbling upon the perfect hydrangea!

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In sum, this activity served as the prompt for a perfect mother-son summer afternoon.

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Garden Rock

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A beach near us has great big rocks scattered all over the sand – not just your typical beach pebble finds, but large heavy ones to collect and take home. We decided they would make the perfect final addition to our little patio garden as decorative labels.

Note: If you can’t collect large rocks near you, check your local gardening store.

Travis was thrilled with the size of our rock canvas. I painted one rock with a garden scene (sun and flowers, although the colors later bled together; I also attempted to paint on the word Garden.

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Meanwhile, he had fun swirling colors all over another.

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I loved watching his concentration as he worked!

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So much fun that he needed to paint a second rock.

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We left them to dry overnight, then settled them among our pots on the patio the next morning, taking care to find each rock the perfect spot.

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DIY Chalkboard Planters

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Chalkboard paint is practically like magic – paint a coat over just about anything, and soon you have a chalkboard surface.

We had plans to plant flowers and herbs in pots on our back patio, so it was the perfect excuse to break out the chalkboard paint!

You could either make a big stripe to be the label…

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…or do as Travis did and paint the whole pot.

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We decided this large surface would be great for drawing in pictures of the plants with chalk, in addition to simply writing their names.

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Let dry overnight, then use chalk to write in the name of whatever will be in your pots. Happy planting!

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