So your family size just increased by one? (Or two or three …) Congratulations! We know you’ve probably heard this — or already experienced it yourself — but “it” goes fast. Here’s our list of 28 things to do with a baby in NYC to make the most of those first 12 months! And for things to do with older kids in New York City, click here.
photo: Mimi O’Connor
1. Ride a carousel
Reactions can range from delight to wonder to fear (it’s hard to know which one) but hopping on a merry-go-round is more often than not a great time, and makes for awesome photo ops. Plus, this is your first, but certainly not your last trip on a carousel, so you’ll have a snap of your itty bitty on a horse for reference as he or she grows into the ride. Our recommendations? The carousel at Central Park is a classic, while the glass-enclosed Jane’s Carousel on a pier in Dumbo is a new favorite. (Here’s our list of the best carousels NYC has to offer.)
photo: Mimi O’Connor
2. Explore Central Park
It’s one of the most famous public greens in the world, and for good reason. Use it! (You can read our complete guide to Central Park with Kids here!) There’s plenty in the park to keep those under 12 months occupied, including navigating the enormous Alice in Wonderland statue, watching ducks and model boats float in the Conservatory Water and crawling around the open expanses of the Sheep Meadow and Great Lawn. Of course, there are plenty of playgrounds in the park as well, with sandboxes, swings, and water features for when it gets steamy.
3. Visit the Brooklyn Children’s Museum
It can be a little frustrating to take a child under one to a museum; they’re often still a little too, well, little to really get the most out of the offerings. Not so with the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, which while packed with stuff for older kids, features a robust area just for the smallest of visitors. Its “Totally Tots” area (designed for kids five and under) includes a “Baby Hub” filled with bright colors and playful shapes, padded surfaces, and lots of room to practice crawling and walking.
4. Join a mom’s group
You may not think of yourself as “the type” to join a mom’s group. No one really does. But mom’s groups are great for any number of reasons: they help you get info (on doctors, kids’ classes, baby-friendly restaurants and bars); they can help you find childcare, they can keep you from being bored out of your skull. They can also provide support and a sense of community. If that sounds a little hippie dippy to you, perhaps “Ohmygod Chloe is going through an insane sleep regression and I’m losing my mind has anyone experienced this and how long does it last?” can help illustrate how this is anything but touchy-feely. Try these on for size. And hey, once you’ve found your tribe, you’re gonna need a place to meet up. We love these indoor spots where you can gather with your parents friends and their kids.
photo: Liz N. via Yelp
5. Buy some shoes
All babes start walking at different times, but sooner or later, you’re going to need something to protect those virgin feet, whether it’s a glorified moccasin or cute little kick. For where to begin your shopping click here.
photo: via The Playroom NYC Facebook page
6. Crawl around a playspace
NYC is bursting with ’em, and most have areas reserved for the tiniest of visitors. Here’s our list of the top ones in the city. In Brooklyn? Check out these! Need a place in Queens? Check these out!
7. Eat Out
You might think you’re at the point in your child’s life when you can’t really go out to a restaurant with them. Parents of three year-olds would strongly disavow that notion, pointing out that now is the perfect time to roll into a restaurant and enjoy a meal while your little one naps, grabs some quality binkie time, or enjoys a bottle. (Three year-olds are much less easily amused.) It doesn’t have to be Per Se, and it doesn’t have to be at eight o’clock at night, but you and your partner deserve to leave the house and have someone else do the cooking. May we suggest brunch at one of these kid-friendly spots? And hey, if it’s nice out, check out these places to eat outside with kids!
photo: via Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr creative commons
8. Go for a drink
Much like eating out, but possibly even more reminiscent of life before baby. If you’re in a kid-heavy neighborhood, chances are you won’t be the only parents with a child in tow at the bar. (Some establishments even cultivate an afternoon parent clientele.) Sometimes a beer or a nice Cabernet is just the thing to top off a weekend afternoon outing at the park, and in the spring, summer and fall, it’s nothing short of amazing. Start with this list of kid-friendly beer gardens.
photo: via Kenneth Lu on Flickr Creative Commons
9. Catch a flick
When a new baby hits the scene, it can feel like you may never see a movie in the theater ever again — especially if it’s your first time at the kiddie rodeo. (While your movie-going habits may never return to their pre-baby levels, rest assured you will, in fact, watch a film on the big screen with your significant other sooner than you think.) But why wait? New York is home to movie theaters that welcome you and your little one for a screening featuring lowered volume and light levels, changing table-equipped restrooms and free admission for the tiny culture vultures. Check out Nitehawk Cinema’s “Hawks With Babies” series every Tuesday afternoon, at both its Williamsburg and its new Prospect Park locations, which features first-run movies. At the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Brooklyn, babes are welcome at the “Alamo for All” sensory-friendly screenings. See our full list of kid-friendly movie theaters here!
10. Take a museum stroller tour
We won’t pretend your baby is getting any real cultural edification out of one of these kid-friendly tours, but it certainly can’t hurt to take an infant to the Guggenheim or the Whitney. Both museums offer tours specifically for parents and their babies. Even if you can’t make a formal tour, a spin around a thoroughly adult place like a New York museum (yes, with a baby in a stroller) does wonders for the urbanite mama’s soul. Note: this is also a great option for a mom’s group outing. (Many museums allow strollers, but contact one before you visit to be sure.) Are you a Park Slope Parents member? They offer stroller tours of Green-wood Cemetery (particularly stunning in spring) several times a year.
photo: Mimi O’Connor
11. Explore Brooklyn Bridge Park
A sprawling, riverside outdoor activity Shangri-La with views of Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge Park is worth a trip with the little one. While many of the park’s features are created for kids skew older (they’ll love Slide Mountain and the Water Lab at Pier 6 in a couple of years) there is still plenty to enjoy here from “Swing Valley” to pint-sized playgrounds for crawlers on Pier 5, to lots of open, green space for lounging in the grass. Plus, a giant sand play area! PS: Williamsburg’s Domino Park is a similar, destination playground with water fun, too!
12. Take a swim class
They say that babies naturally know how to swim (or you know, something like that). It’s never too early to get kids in the water, and a swim class is another chance to bond with your child that actually serves a practical purpose beyond forming attachment. Here’s where you and your guppie can get kick-kick-kicking!
13. Hit up a drop-in class or open play
You don’t need to commit to eight or more weeks of a class to expose your baby to music, art, or just other babies. A great way to determine the best activity for both you and the little one, these one-offs are also an opportunity to chat with other parents who are navigating the whole process of raising a small human being. Plus: your living room isn’t a mess when it’s over. In Manhattan? These places are great! Check out these drop-in spots in Brooklyn. In Queens? These drop-ins are for you!
photo: Music Together
14. Take a Music Class
There’s no shortage of classes where you and the little one can get your tune on in New York; it’s just a matter of what kind of music you want to play (or hear). For classic, multi-culti fare, try Music Together. Music for Aardvarks celebrates the experiences of being as city kid (most famously, in an ode to taxi rides). And there are so many more to consider as well. All of them are guaranteed to make use of instruments and at least once make you feel like an idiot as you prance around in a circle. But the kids, they love it.
15. Try some Mommy & Me fitness, too
The yoga, swimming and kickboxing that you did while pregnant? You can do it with baby in tow! (Well, okay, maybe not the kickboxing). Harlem Yoga Studio is dedicated to being affordable and accessible to all moms and their babies, while The Yoga Room in Astoria and Long Island City brings a similar service to Queens, Bread & Yoga serves Inwood, and Brooklyn has Shanti Baby Yoga. Feel like swimming instead of omm-ing? Imagine Swimming and Take Me to the Water have locations around the city, while 92nd St. Y and 14th St. Y fulfill the needs of those looking for more than just swimming lessons, with other family programming.
16. Get a library card
If you’re already a fan and patron of the library, good for you. If not, you soon will be! Not only will your local branch keep your bedtime reading fresh, it also probably hosts lots of events like story time, performances and more — for free! (Also: libraries can be a great rainy day hangout solution. Other families will be there, we promise.)
17. Score some gently-used and adorable duds
Sure, you should splurge on a super adorable ensemble from a spot like Jacadi or Livly or Two Kids and a Dog. But be prepared for your child to wear it for about half a minute. Then head to a spot for secondhand scores also barely worn at spots like Owl Tree, Jane’s Exchange, Flying Squirrel and Clementine Consignment.
photo: via Juhan Sonin on Flickr creative commons
18. Do whatever you want for Halloween
Future Halloweens will be filled with debate and much mind-changing, but this year it’s all you. Make your own, pay top dollar or score a mint-condition costume at a thrift store or consignment shop, but whatever you do, don’t stress and have fun. Check out some of our favorite costume resources here, and some of our favorite NYC-inspired costumes here.
19. Go to the Zoo
The zoo is one of those places you can’t wait for the baby to experience. Warning: it takes a while for them to really appreciate it. While that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, it does mean you should go the right one. The Bronx Zoo is great, but massive, and actually the better choice when kids are older and super psyched to see animals. Our choice for a lovely, manageable afternoon with some up-close-and-personal farm animal action as well as well-designed habitats is the Queens Zoo in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The Prospect Park Zoo is also great and more compact, and has farm animals to interface with as well. (Hot tip: a family membership to the Wildlife Conservation Society gets you in to all of the zoos—and the New York Aquarium—and offers other perks. It’s one of our favorite family memberships!)
photo: Allison S. via Yelp
20. Get a haircut
Some kids remain close to bald as a cue ball for what seems like ages, but even they typically need a haircut before the first year is up. Shops specializing in kids’ cuts can be found all over the city, and many do double duty as a toy or shoe store as well. Try one of these for the inaugural snip.
21. Learn how to wear the baby
Wearing the baby is not for everyone, but lately, it seems like it’s for a lot of people. (You kind of can’t beat the convenience of a strap-and-go baby transporting device; sometimes a stroller is just too much.) It can be tough to get the hang of it, though. Master the wrap with a baby-wearing class. We suggest The Wild (formerly Wild Was Mama) and Metro Minis/babywearing nyc for help getting in the sling of things.
22. Bookmark this post
All you need to know about baby — in chart form!
23. Try a subscription service to make your life easier, or just more fun. (You deserve it.)
Clothes, developmental toys, food. Take your pick.
26. See a show
Yes, there is theater for even the littlest of people! Head to spots that specialize in theater for kids like The New Victory Theater or Lincoln Center’s LC Kids series. Here’s some of the shows we’re excited about this season!
27. Don’t forget to ask for help!
From support groups to services that will clean your stroller, babysit, send you cloth diapers and more, we’ve rounded up where to visit or call when assistance is needed!
28. Take a snap with Santa
Depending on your baby’s birth date, a Santa photo might ultimately be the equivalent of a dude in a red suit holding a blob in a holiday onesie. Still, it’s a great way to mark the years if you do the Christmas thing, and the grandparents can’t get enough of it. These are our picks for where to find the man in the red suit!