Every parent loves playing with their baby, but sometimes you need a break to do a couple of chores or just chill out. While the easiest way to distract your little one may be with a tablet or smartphone, pediatricians recommend choosing another option. Recently updated guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics ask parents to avoid screen time for babies, with the exception of video chatting with family and friends. More research needs to be done on screens and kids, but doctors are concerned about its long-term impact on language and childhood cognitive development, especially in an age where we’re only growing more digitally dependent.
Instead, they say, find activities that help them explore and learn without the assistance of technology. The following ideas are recommended by experienced moms. Plus, they’re screen-free and simple to start. Keep a few of your favorites in your parenting toolbox. Next time you need a moment to yourself, you’ll feel confident that baby is having fun while staying perfectly safe.
1. Baby Crib Mobiles
Many new moms receive a baby crib mobile as a baby shower gift. Whether you put one of them on your registry or you buy it yourself, know that it’s a worthwhile purchase. Soft music and cute moving animals may help your little one fall asleep at night. Mobiles are also helpful in delighting them while you fold blankets and Onesies from Onesies® Brand bodysuits.
Keep baby intrigued with bright colors, interesting shapes and sounds. Many models play nursery rhymes or lullabies to help infants focus for a longer period of time. If you have a theme for your baby nursery, you can find a mobile to match it. Some of the most popular styles of crib mobiles include zoo animals, sea creatures and stars.
2. Household Items
Most families have piles of toys scattered about the home, but some babies prefer to play with household items. Kitchen tools such as spatulas and wooden spoons are both safe and interesting to your little one. They also belong to mom, which makes them even more intriguing. In addition to utensils, paper towel rolls and empty containers are a few more of the most beloved “toys” you’ll find lying around the house.
Hand them one of these items as you put away dishes or feed your pets. If they get fussy but you still need some time, exchange the item for a new one. The swap should be enough to allow you to take a breath or finish your task. You can also have them join in the chores if they like to help.
3. Play Boxes
Find a medium-sized storage container or cardboard box around your home. Fill it with several different types of toys that baby can take out of the box. Let them discover which items are inside. They’ll develop problem-solving skills by learning how to pull the items out and play with them. They can also decide which toys they want to use and which they should keep inside the box.
As you supervise, ask them questions about what they’re finding. This tactic will help keep their interest as you complete your tasks. Swap the toys for new ones next time. You can also switch out the box every once and a while to ensure the activity stays fresh and interesting.
4. Outdoor Play
If you need to make a phone call or water the plants, take your little one outdoors with you. According to the experts at Verywell Health, sunshine and fresh air are both good for baby. You’ll benefit from the extra oxygen and vitamin D, too.
Put a blanket down in your backyard for toy exploration or tummy time. Older infants can crawl in the grass, practice walking on soft terrain or watch birds and squirrels as they have a snack. Other outdoor play ideas include putting your child in a stroller as you reply to emails or exercise. Baby carriers and wraps are also helpful, especially if you need to keep your hands free or want to try to lull your infant to sleep.
5. Musical Time
Since children love music, try holding a listening session or mini dance party. Put on a playlist that makes baby move. A couple of relaxing tracks can also help set the backdrop for playtime.
If you prefer a more hands-on experience, grab a few musical instruments. Small maracas are excellent for babies since they’re similar to rattles. Tiny tambourines are also fun for infants to tap and shake. Some parents are musicians, which means they can practice their craft while keeping baby busy. Pull out your guitar or keyboard and let your little one have a listen. They may soon be your biggest fan.
Screen-Free Activities for a Healthy, Happy Baby
Now that you have a few activities in mind, try one that fits your needs and baby’s personality. While each of these ideas is sure to intrigue little hands and minds, remember that there is no substitution for mom’s watchful eye. Every mom needs to complete their task list as they go about their day with baby, but small children are susceptible to injuries and unaware of the dangers that lurk around the home. Check in on them as they play, whether you’re taking a moment to visit the restroom or several minutes to clean up a mess.
With a little persistence, patience and creativity, you’ll discover which tricks and tools work to distract your child. You’ll also learn about the types of activities that keep them happy throughout the day. These revelations will make you more confident as a parent—and will help you stress less knowing there’s a way to get everything done.