Sure, you have a stroller to push — but it won’t slow you down. Your new-parent badge opens the door to a whole new world of activities, resources and friends in and around Chicago. Before your baby turns one (and that happens much faster than you think!) make sure to check these off your bucket list.
photo: Edyta Grazman Photography
1. Get newborn photos.
Babies seem to change from one minute to the next. Preserve those first precious moments with a photo session. Many local photographers give you the option to get the shots done at your home or in their studio. Some faves are TK Photography, Edyta Grazman, Simply by Suzy, Rachel Beltzman, A Little Photo Studio and Classic Kids.
2. Stroll through museums.
The Museum of Contemporary Art offers a free stroller tour on the first Wednesday of each month. If history is more your thing, download the tour app for The Field Museum and enjoy a day out with your baby as you tour at your own pace. If your little one is ready to get in the action, head to the Shedd Aquarium, where babies love to watch the fish float by.
3. Join a support group.
In the city, GRASP Group and The Chicago New Moms Group gets you out of the house and into a circle of parents in a similar life stage. With weekly meetings, they tackle the tough subjects of parenting and connect you to new friends. If you live in the northern suburbs, check out Starting Out Right at New Mother, New Baby in Northbrook.
photo: Peggy Notebaert
4. Explore an indoor green scene.
Dance with fluttering friends at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum‘s Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, and find tropical plants galore at Garfield Park Conservatory. You’ll be tricked into believing it’s a balmy summer day inside both. The bonus? Admission is free for Illinois residents on Thursdays at the Nature Museum and is always free (with a suggested donation) at Garfield Park.
5. Learn new lullabies.
Sing while you can, before baby is old enough to protest! Fa-la-la-la-la right into Old Town School of Music’s Lullabies class to sing sweet tunes to your 0-5 month old baby. You can start by trying a no-strings-attached drop-in music class at the cozy boutique Monica + Andy, or check out one of the free music performances offered in the city, such as the Juicebox series at the Chicago Cultural Center.
photo: Active Moms Club
6. Work out!
Once you’re cleared to exercise, there are many baby-friendly classes to choose from. Join Active Moms Club’s From the Core: Postnatal Recovery to gradually increase the intensity of your workout to rebuild your strength as you mingle with other moms and babies. Cocoon Care has a variety of classes designed just for moms – get there early and catch a music class or jump in a support group. Fit4Mom classes are offered all over the city and suburbs.
7. Take baby to the movies … really!
You have no excuse to pass up the Oscars party you were invited to. While most people would cringe at the thought of a baby in the movie theater, some local shows allow you to bring your little sidekick along! Regal Webster Place in Lincoln Park welcomes babies at first showings of each movie on Tuesdays.
8. Attend a breastfeeding clinic.
One of the toughest tasks to tackle when you bring baby home is breastfeeding. Head to Sprout San Francisco for their drop-in breastfeeding clinic with The Lactation Partners every other Thursday afternoon for the support you need and the chance to meet other new moms in a no-judgement setting. Check out the schedule at Sod Room for the Milk and Cookies Community Drop-In Breastfeeding Clinic.
photo: Bump Club and Beyond / TK Photography
9. Head to a play date.
Join a Bump Club and Beyond New Moms Monthly Play Date (for babes 0-8 months) at Little Beans Café. You’ll meet other awesome new moms (many of whom have formed their own spinoff playgroups). In the summer the group meets outside on the deck! Also, check out Neighborhood Parents Network which offers many play date options, including ones specifically for working moms and moms over 35.
10. Try mommy-and-me yoga.
Stay Zen at Sweet Pea’s Studio in Lakeview or Bloom Yoga Studio in Lincoln Square. Classes start when baby is only six weeks, and there are options for tots so you can continue as your little one grows.
11. Get a crawling coach.
One of our favorite classes for baby during the first year is the new Bubbles Academy Core Development: Pre-Crawlers. Crawlers can build upon their skills through a music class designed especially for their age group.
photo: Foss Swim School / Jennifer Whelan
12. Plunge into swimming lessons.
After baby is six months, get them in the pool at Goldfish Swim School or Foss Swim School for a baby-parent swim lesson. With locations in the city and ‘burbs, these are great places to warm up on a cold day.
13. Take a (mall) walk!
Enjoy the new (and expecting) parent parking spot at Nordstrom in North Bridge on Michigan Avenue (in the garage; $15 for three hours or less with $10 purchase) or the free parking at Fashion Outlets of Chicago in Rosemont, and hit the mall to buy yourself something new now that baby is here!
14. Kick start early literacy development.
Check out nearby libraries to sign up for baby story time classes. Though the format of each class is a bit different, expect some combination of singing, reading aloud and playing. Both drop-in classes and on-going series are offered by the Chicago Public Libraries.
photo: Electric Neil
15. Have a spring fling in Lincoln Park.
Spend a spring morning at the park along the lake. You can hit Green City Market for a snack (there are shorter lines on Wednesdays!) and lots of eye candy for baby. Then take in Electric Neil’s Free Concerts at the Farm-in-the-Zoo at Lincoln Park Zoo on Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:15 and 10 a.m.
16. Engage in some retail therapy.
Your new arrival is the best reason to check out Chicago area baby boutiques. Whether you’re searching for over the top accessories at BabyDolls Boutique or an engaging toy at Building Blocks Toy Store, the area has something for even most hard to please babies…and their parents.
17. Meet new parents online.
If you can’t get out because of the weather or are still recovering from childbirth, connect on Facebook! Groups like Mamatribe and Northwest Suburbs Moms have large followings where local parents connect and help one another out.
photo: TK Photography
18. Have a smashing first birthday.
Celebrate baby’s first birthday with a Smash Cake Photo Session! TK Photography offers a full service mini-session complete with a cake, backdrop and the cleanup as you capture baby turning one. If you want to take things a step further, reserve the space at A Little Photo Studio and have a photographer document the whole bash!
19. Try a little bit of everything.
If the thought of signing up for all these classes is overwhelming (understandably so given your schedule – or lack thereof), sign up for Pearachute. Choose a plan and get instant drop-in access to some of Chicago’s most popular baby classes…even some fitness for moms, complete with childcare!
20. Breathe. Smile. And enjoy every moment!
It’s the simplest advice, but oh so true. Save some time to soak in those baby snuggles while you can.
What would you add to this list? Let us know in the Comments!
— Lisa Snart and Lindsay Pinchuk