Bringing a new baby home is exciting. But for toddlers, sometimes bringing a new baby home can be overwhelming — they’re loud, they can’t do anything, and they take a
lot of parental attention that used to be lavished on them. That’s why one-on-one toddler “dates” can be so crucial in this time.
Here’s what I’ve observed in my own, limited experience: when it comes to getting a toddler on board with a new baby, very often it boils down to two key factors...
Let them know they’re just as special to you as they’ve always been Show them that being the older sibling is cool by letting them have “special privileges” — things a baby can’t do!
“Dates” are a great way to let them feel this, especially, if it can be solo time with just one parent. I’ve also chosen activities that can be “layered.” In many cases, you could do a bunch of these one-on-one activities in one outing. I’ve also tried to acknowledge the fact that cost, location, and lack of infant-care might limit one’s options, so there are activities that can be done at home during an infant nap as well as fun parent/child outings.
Having a new baby means having another person to love. But sometimes it's a good idea to take a step back to make sure your toddler is feeling the love, too.
1 Go To A Favorite Playground
Maybe you haven’t had a chance to pop over to your kiddo’s favorite stomping grounds since the baby was born. Maybe you have, but you’ve had to bring your infant and haven’t been able to run around with them like you used to. It’s a nice way to let them know, “Hey, I know things are different right now, but you’re still loved and we can still take time to do the things you like to do, just like before.”
2 Pony Rides
I’m basing this on myself as a toddler/child — there was never anything that made me happier than getting to be on or even near horses. They’re big (even ponies are big to a toddler), they’re pretty, they’re gentle, they’re novel, and you get to ride around on them while a barn worker holds a rope and leads them around.
I’m also basing this on my kids, who literally remember the name of the pony they got to ride 5 years ago at a county fair. (The pony’s name was Pikachu: now you know, too.)
3 Petting Zoo
When you’re a toddler, “Old MacDonald” is a bop, and the characters in it — the horse, the pig, the cow, the chicks, the goats — they’re basically celebrities. So being able to go to a farm or petting zoo and meet them is like getting backstage passes for a One Direction meet-and-greet in toddler world.
4 Toy Store
Money can’t buy you love... but a toy sometimes can. At the very least a toy can be a nice pick-me-up for a kid who has, perhaps, been entertaining themselves more than they’re typically accustomed to. But it’s more than
just a toy. The process of going to a shop, choosing a toy together, and having fun is just as valuable. (Choosing a toy for their new sibling can also be a fun activity: it lets them feel important, and that being more grown up can be fun. It can also help to get them more invested in the baby if they’re having trouble getting there on their own.) 5 Trampoline Park
I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who didn’t lose their little baby mind at a trampoline park. Many will have special sections just for the littlest jumpers. It’s
also fun for adults! (Though, fair warning: jumping and postpartum pelvic floors may result in some, erm... leaking.)
also don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who didn’t take an epic nap at the end of a trip to a trampoline park, so there’s truly something for everyone with this option. 6 Hike
Obviously you’re not going to be trekking to the top of the Himalayas with a toddler in tow, but a little nature walk can be fun for wee legs! Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination, so have fun exploring the various rocks, sticks, flowers, and maybe even animals along the way! They’ll love the undivided attention.
7 Head To The Library Galina Zhigalova / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
People sleep on libraries. But these jewels of our communities are a great place to bond with your kiddo, pick up books, play with toys, meet other kids, attend a story-hour, make arts and crafts, rent a movie you can’t stream, and more!
8 Art Studio
From painting ceramics and creating dioramas to making paper bag puppets and sculpting with clay, there are hundreds of ways to get creative at a local art studio, and it’s a great way to get out of your usual routine with your kiddo. (And keep the mess that invariably comes when you let a toddler anywhere near paint away from your own house!)
9 Amusement Park
Yes, this is a pricey day out (and a long one) but if you can manage it, it’s sure to be a treasured memory for years to come. (They will want a souvenir. Plan for that.)
OK, I 100% do
not recommend going out into the middle of the woods with a toddler. I do however, recommend setting up a little tent in your backyard, if you have one, and roasting some marshmallows and singing camp songs. It’s novel, it’s fun, and it’s not something a tiny baby can do, which will make your toddler feel like a rugged adult (and get some quality time with you or your partner). 11 Local Nature Center
Certainly there’s no
one model of nature center, but they’re generally a great place to bring a kid, not only to spend some one-on-one time, but to encourage them to appreciate the great outdoors. Many have “exhibits” with animals being rehabilitated (or, sadly, who could not be safely re-released and became beloved longtime residents). Others have gardens, various woodland paths, and programming just for kids. 12 Picnic
I can’t explain what it is, but kids
love picnics. Grab a blanket, a basket or a cooler, and sit down with your kiddo and a snack. They will love it and, if you have outdoor space, you can grab the baby monitor and do this while your littlest naps. 13 River Walk
One of the best things my family and I discovered last year, when the pandemic forced us all to get creative with entertainment, was “river walking.” Grab a bathing suit, a pair of water shoes, head down to a local stream and have fun splashing around or exploring what lies around the river bend. We all wished this was something we’d started doing sooner.
Obviously this will be location dependent: I
do not recommend trying this in, say, the Hudson River or the Mississippi. It’s best to attempt this in areas that could best be described as “streams” (and, even then, you want to be wary that depth can change suddenly), but it can be truly magical. 14 Outdoor Concert
It doesn’t even have to be kid music! Every outdoor music event I’ve ever been to has a toddler jumping around dancing, and they become as much of an attraction as the actual performers. It’s just a lovely, sweet, low-key activity.
15 A New Playground Renata Angerami/E+/Getty Images
It is a truth universally acknowledged that
just beyond where you normally bring your kid to the playground lies an even better, fancier playground. This has been true literally every place I’ve ever lived, so I have to imagine it’s true for everyone else. If you don’t know where the Super Cool Playground Near You is, exactly, hit up the Googles or local parenting boards. Someone there will for sure know.
And, OK, even if other playgrounds near you are relatively comparable to the one you usually hit up, there’s something to be said for novelty, so it’ll be a fun outing regardless.
16 Museum (Children’s Or Otherwise)
If your kid is feeling a little out of sorts because a new baby is in the house, nothing will set them to rights quite like seeing dinosaur bones. I’m telling you: the healing properties of a fossilized T-Rex cannot be overstated...
17 Fruit Picking
Apple or pumpkin picking in the fall, berry picking in the summer; obviously this is seasonally and locationally dependent (I don’t think you’re going to find many fruits growing in the Northern hemisphere in February) but if it’s available to you, go for it. Your toddler will love to be able to snack on, literally, the fruits of their labor, and it’s a nice time in the fresh air together. (Also significantly easier without a newborn strapped to your chest.)
18 Drive-Thru Car Wash
If you really think about it, can you think of anything you’ve ever taken your child to that has made them as overwhelmed with joy as when you drove them through the carwash that one time? Maybe that time you took them to Disney was
as good, but probably not better. It’s pure, toddler bliss. (And, let’s be honest: very few of us ever outgrow it.) Bonus: it doesn’t take long and your car is clean at the end of it) 19 Ice Cream
It’s a classic for a reason, folks. It’d be irresponsible of me not to include it in the list. Go to the fancy ice cream place and splurge.
20 Baking Together Fly View Productions/E+/Getty Images
I will be honest with you: very little stresses me out more than baking with my kids. (OH MY GOD NO! I WILL CRACK THE EGG, PLEASE STOP!) But kids love it: it’s tactile, it’s creative, and it’s time they get to spend with you. So if you can swallow your need for perfection (and resign yourself to the idea that whatever you’re baking will not turn out perfectly), this can be a cute way to bond with your toddler (perhaps during an infant nap).
21 Puddle Jumping
Kids love doing things we normally don’t let them do... like jump in puddles. So it’s nice to give them a day, to just let them
go to town splashing about. Hell, throw in a mud puddle while you’re at it (they can finally live their dream). Peppa Pig muddy puddles 22 Bowling
Obviously this probably isn’t a great idea for very younger toddlers who weigh only slightly more than a bowling ball themselves, but for
older toddlers, this is a fun one. Bowling alleys have all sorts of things to make bowling more accommodating for wee ones, from lightweight balls to lane bumpers and special ball ramps! 23 Go To The Beach (Or Lake Or Community Pool)
Hauling more than one child to any body of water is
stressful. Not so stressful you never do it, but it’s more stressful than bringing just one. So enjoy this one-on-one time with your toddler! 24 Gardening
Kids are natural dirt magnets, so why not try putting that skill to use and planting something. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, it’s all good. (Definitely want to reserve some time afterwards for a bath, though...)
25 Botanical Gardens
This is another location-dependent suggestion but if you do live somewhere with a facility like this, I can’t recommend it enough. If for nothing else, do it for the ‘gram, friends. Your toddler? Rows and rows of flowers? ART.
Let this be a jumping off point for you and your little one. Enjoy!